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China is investing billions in global disinformation | Aus: Voice to Parliament referendum 'prime target' for foreign interference on X | Record-breaking spike in countries buying Israeli arms, cyber
Good morning. It's Tuesday 3rd October.
The Chinese government is pouring billions of dollars annually into a global campaign of disinformation, using investments abroad and an array of tactics to promote Beijing’s geopolitical aims and squelch criticism of its policies, according to a new State Department assessment. Beijing’s broad-ranging efforts, the assessment said, feature online bot and troll armies, legal actions against those critical of Chinese companies and investments and content-sharing agreements with media in Latin America and Africa. The Wall Street Journal
Yoel Roth, a former Twitter executive responsible for policing misinformation, has warned Elon Musk's takeover has made the social media platform increasingly vulnerable to foreign governments and extremists trying to influence the Voice to Parliament referendum. ABC News
The number of countries to which the Defense Ministry has authorized exports of weapons and security-related cyber systems has skyrocketed in recent years, according to its own official data. The figures coincide with the export records of Israel’s defense industries, which broke their own records two years in a row. Haaretz
Voice to Parliament referendum 'prime target' for foreign interference on Elon Musk's X, former executive warns
Pat McGrath, Kevin Nguyen and Michael Workman
Yoel Roth, a former Twitter executive responsible for policing misinformation, has warned Elon Musk's takeover has made the social media platform increasingly vulnerable to foreign governments and extremists trying to influence the Voice to Parliament referendum. He told ABC Investigations the Voice to Parliament vote was a "prime target" for disinformation campaigns and the platform, renamed X in June, was doing almost nothing under Mr Musk's ownership to stop lies spreading among its users. Mr Roth criticised X for ending its partnerships with civil researchers monitoring online disinformation, including groups like the Australian Strategic Policy Institute which he said was an "essential part" of Twitter's operations in and around Australia.
‘Very concerned’: Influential senator David Pocock raises free speech objections to misinformation bill
The Sydney Morning Herald
Independent ACT senator David Pocock holds serious concerns Labor’s proposed misinformation laws will jeopardise free speech and says he will not support the bill unless significant changes are made to address criticisms by legal and human rights experts. Pocock, who holds a potentially crucial vote in the Senate, joins a growing chorus of organisations sounding the alarm over the Albanese government’s proposal to give the Australian Communications and Media Authority new powers to penalise tech platforms if they fail to remove misinformation and disinformation.
Beijing-owned businesses using Australian law firms to advise on takeovers of critical projects
Andrew Greene and Matthew Doran
Chinese state-owned enterprises are using Australian law firms to advise on takeovers of critical local infrastructure and minerals projects according to a new report that exposes potential conflicts with other sensitive work the same companies complete at home.
China is investing billions in global disinformation campaign, U.S. says
The Wall Street Journal
Dustin Volz and Michael R. Gordon
The Chinese government is pouring billions of dollars annually into a global campaign of disinformation, using investments abroad and an array of tactics to promote Beijing’s geopolitical aims and squelch criticism of its policies, according to a new State Department assessment. Beijing’s broad-ranging efforts, the assessment said, feature online bot and troll armies, legal actions against those critical of Chinese companies and investments and content-sharing agreements with media in Latin America and Africa.
China’s increasingly aggressive tactics for foreign disinformation campaigns
On August 29, Meta reported that it had recently taken down thousands of accounts and Facebook pages that “were part of the largest known cross-platform covert operation in the world,” run by “geographically dispersed operators across China.” The announcement and its detailed analysis made headlines around the world, garnering attention for the type of information that is often mainly of interest to cybersecurity firms and digital policy wonks. But such revelations are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Beijing’s evolving campaign to feed targeted disinformation – demonstrably false or misleading content, often through the use of fake accounts – to social media users around the world.
Huawei’s 5G smartphone comeback, with advanced chip wrapped in secrecy, releases chokehold of US sanctions on China tech
South China Morning Post
Iris Deng, Che Pan and Bien Perez
The timing of the Mate 60 Pro’s presales campaign coincided with US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s trip to China, which yielded the establishment of working groups to facilitate further bilateral communication, as Washington’s export controls remained in place. But it was the company’s launch of new 5G handsets powered by a new central processing unit – first identified by Chinese benchmarking website AnTuTu as the Kirin 9000s, developed by Huawei chip design unit HiSilicon – which resulted in intense speculation about where and how the chip was made under strict US trade sanctions.
Huawei takes revenge as China catches up on semiconductors
Peter Elstrom and Mackenzie Hawkins
By the standards of the gadget business, everything about Huawei’s release of its Mate 60 Pro smartphone in late August was unusual. Instead of talking up the device in a splashy marketing event, the company quietly started selling it online. Huawei didn’t even reveal several key technical specifications, yet burned through its inventory in hours. Within China, this inspired a wave of patriotic celebration.
China trade council asks U.S. to "carefully consider" tech investment ban
China's international trade council has formally asked the United States to "carefully consider" rules that ban or restrict U.S. investments in China's tech sector, state television reported on Friday. U.S. President Joe Biden signed the executive order last month which prohibits or restricts investments in Chinese entities involved in semiconductors and microelectronics, quantum information technologies and certain artificial intelligence systems.
Stanford University Agrees to Pay $1.9 Million to Resolve Allegations That it Failed to Disclose Foreign Research Support in Federal Grant Proposals
Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Justice
Stanford University, located in Palo Alto, California, has agreed to pay $1.9 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by submitting proposals for federal research grants that failed to disclose current and pending support that 12 Stanford faculty members were receiving from foreign sources..The United States alleged that on 16 grant proposals submitted to the Army, Navy, NASA and NSF, Stanford knowingly failed to disclose current and pending foreign funding that 11 Stanford PIs and co-PIs had received or expected to receive in direct support of their research. The United States further alleged that Stanford knowingly failed to disclose to the Army, Air Force and NSF that a Stanford professor received research funding in connection with his employment at Fudan University, a foreign public university and from a foreign government’s national science foundation.
US warned China to expect updated export curbs in October-US official
Karen Freifeld and Alexandra Alper
The Biden administration warned Beijing of its plans to update rules that curb shipments of AI chips and chipmaking tools to China as soon as early October, a U.S. official said, a policy decision aimed at stabilizing relations between the superpowers. The Commerce Department, which oversees export controls, is working on an update of export restrictions first released last year. The update seeks to limit access to more chipmaking tools in line with new Dutch and Japanese rules, other sources said, and to close some loopholes in export restrictions on artificial intelligence chips.
The country ‘dodged a bullet’ after shutdown was avoided, but cyber threat looms
The Washington Post
When Congress agreed on a short-term funding deal to avoid a federal government shutdown this weekend, it also averted — temporarily — a potential disaster for cybersecurity. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency would’ve sent four of every five employees home during the shutdown, the Department of Homeland Security said. But cyber experts fear the impacts could’ve stretched across the federal government, affecting cybercrime prosecutions, cyber regulations, personnel recruitment and more.
National Security Agency is starting an artificial intelligence security center
The National Security Agency is starting an artificial intelligence security center — a crucial mission as AI capabilities are increasingly acquired, developed and integrated into U.S. defense and intelligence systems, the agency’s outgoing director announced Thursday. Army Gen. Paul Nakasone said the center would be incorporated into the NSA’s Cybersecurity Collaboration Center, where it works with private industry and international partners to harden the U.S. defense-industrial base against threats from adversaries led by China and Russia.
Space Force chief says commercial satellites may need defending
Like the US Navy has long protected sea lanes during conflict, the military could be called upon to defend commercial satellites from attack, particularly as the Pentagon relies more on commercial networks for communication and surveillance, the Space Force's top general said last week. In comments at a conference in Hawaii on September 20, Gen. Chance Saltzman echoed many statements made by military leaders over the last few years: US military space capabilities are under threat from China and Russia, military leaders need more information about what other countries are doing in space, and commercial satellites are playing an ever-larger role in the military's space programs.
US intelligence chiefs miss deadline on how they define spying
Katrina Manson and Peter Martin
US lawmakers want the intelligence community to define what it does. They still don’t have an answer. US intelligence agencies blew through a Sept. 30 deadline to define 23 terms such as “open source intelligence” and “signals intelligence” that would help explain how they conduct espionage. That’s prompting fresh concern from Congress and civil-society groups.
Court to weigh state laws constraining social media companies
The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide the legality of Republican-backed state laws in Texas and Florida that constrain the ability of social media companies to curb content on their platforms that these businesses deem objectionable. The justices took up two cases involving challenges by technology industry groups who argued that these 2021 laws restricting the content-moderation practices of large social media platforms violate the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment protections for freedom of speech. Lower courts split on the issue, striking down key provisions of Florida's law while upholding the Texas measure.
Mayorkas warns Latin American leaders of Beijing’s technology influence
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned leaders from Latin American countries on Thursday that Beijing’s attempts to gain influence via infrastructure partnerships and low-cost technology investments comes with risks that China may exploit the systems it helps finance. Speaking at a first-of-its-kind Western Hemisphere Cyber Conference, Mayorkas warned that China’s prices are “too good to be true” and that countries in Latin America face a difficult choice about accepting low-cost investments now in exchange for cybersecurity risks in the long term, or what Mayorkas described as “a choice between speed and sovereignty, a choice between vulnerability and security, a choice between up front affordability and the cost of rebuilding after a devastating cyber attack made possible by high-risk hardware and software.”
Ransomware gangs destroying data, using multiple strains during attacks: FBI
The Record by Recorded Future
Ransomware gangs are shifting their tactics to include multiple strains in the same attack and destructive tools beyond encryption or theft, the FBI warned this week. Gangs are increasingly using “custom data theft, wiper tools, and malware to pressure victims to negotiate,” a white notice published Wednesday said. The FBI explained that as of July they are also seeing several groups using a combination of two ransomware strains during attacks. The AvosLocker, Diamond, Hive, Karakurt, LockBit, Quantum, and Royal variants have been deployed alongside one another during incidents, making it difficult for defenders preparing for one or the other.
Pro-India hacker group claims responsibility for cyberattack on Canadian forces website
Pro-India hackers claimed responsibility for a cyberattack that temporarily disabled the website of the Canadian Armed Forces on Wednesday. The Indian Cyber Force hacking group shared screenshots of the Canadian military website being taken down on Telegram, and X (formerly known as Twitter). The group said the breach would last two hours, which it did, according to the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail.
North Korean gov’t hackers targeted aerospace company in Spain
The Record by Recorded Future
Hackers connected to a notorious group within the North Korean government launched an attack against an aerospace company in Spain, according to researchers at security company ESET. In a report on Friday, researchers said they discovered a campaign by hackers connected to Lazarus — an infamous group that has stolen billions from cryptocurrency firms over the last two years.
North Korean hackers posed as Meta recruiter on LinkedIn
A North Korean cyberespionage operation targeted employees of an aerospace company in Spain using a previously unreported backdoor and a creative phishing campaign featuring a phony Silicon Valley recruiter, demonstrating a “significant advancement in malicious capabilities,” researchers with the cybersecurity firm ESET said Friday.
Japan to bolster cyber defense with homegrown software
Japan plans to begin installing domestically developed security software for ministry and agency computers starting in fiscal 2025, part of an effort to boost the collection and analysis of cyberattack information and improve cyber defense. The new software will be compatible with the Microsoft security software that is on most government PCs, increasing defense capabilities by layering countermeasures.
NZ & Pacific Islands
Inaugural Pacific cyber capacity conference underway in Nadi
The Fiji Times
Fiji’s comprehensive cyber ecosystem strategy, focusing on telecommunications, equitable connectivity, digital infrastructure, and cybercrime resilience was highlighted at the inaugural Pacific Cyber Capacity Building and Coordination Conference this morning by the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Trade, Cooperatives, and Small and Medium Enterprises, and Communications Manoa Kamikamica at the Sheraton Hotel in Nadi.
Ukraine - Russia
Ukraine’s war of drones runs into an obstacle: China
The New York Times
Paul Mozur and Valerie Hopkins
More than any conflict in human history, the fighting in Ukraine is a war of drones. That means a growing reliance on suppliers of the flying vehicles — specifically, China. While Iran and Turkey produce large, military-grade drones used by Russia and Ukraine, the cheap consumer drones that have become ubiquitous on the front line largely come from China, the world’s biggest maker of those devices. That has given China a hidden influence in a war that is waged partly with consumer electronics.
E.U. law sets the stage for a clash over disinformation
The New York Times
Steven Lee Myers
As Slovakia heads toward an election on Saturday, the country has been inundated with disinformation and other harmful content on social media sites. What is different now is a new European Union law that could force the world’s social media platforms to do more to fight it — or else face fines of up to 6 percent of a company’s revenue. The law, the Digital Services Act, is intended to force social media giants to adopt new policies and practices to address accusations that they routinely host — and, through their algorithms, popularize — corrosive content. If the measure is successful, as officials and experts hope, its effects could extend far beyond Europe, changing company policies in the United States and elsewhere.
European telecom groups ask Brussels to make Big Tech pay more for networks
Yasemin Craggs Mersinoglu and Javier Espinoza
Europe’s biggest telecoms companies have called on the EU to compel Big Tech to pay a “fair” contribution for using their networks, the latest stage in a battle for payments that has pitched the sector against companies such as Netflix and Google. Technology companies that “benefit most” from telecoms infrastructure and drive traffic growth should contribute more to costs, according to the chief executives of 20 groups including BT, Deutsche Telekom and Telefónica, who signed an open letter seen by the Financial Times. It will be sent to the European Commission and members of the European parliament.
Nvidia’s French offices raided in cloud-computing antitrust inquiry
The Wall Street Journal
Sam Schechner and Asa Fitch
France’s competition authority raided Nvidia’s local offices this week on suspicion the company engaged in anticompetitive practices, the first significant regulatory scrutiny the company has faced since its rise to be the paramount supplier of artificial intelligence chips. The French competition authority, which disclosed the dawn raid on Wednesday, didn’t say what practices it was investigating or which company it had targeted, beyond saying it was in the “graphics cards sector.” But people familiar with the raid said the operation had targeted Nvidia, which is the world’s largest maker of chips used both for artificial intelligence and for computer graphics.
No formal investigation into AI chips, EU antitrust regulators say
Foo Yun Chee
EU antitrust regulators have not opened a formal investigation into chips used for artificial intelligence, the European Commission said on Monday, days after the French competition authority raided Nvidia for alleged anti-competitive practices. "There is no formal investigation by the Commission into the matter you refer to," a spokesperson for the EU executive said in an email to Reuters when asked about the issue. Nvidia had declined to comment following the French raid.
DR Congo: UN mission still disinformation target, as withdrawal speculation grows
Attacks on local populations, roadblocks and denial of humanitarian access, continue to fuel suffering in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, Special Representative Bintou Keita told the Security Council in New York. “As I speak today, over six million people remain displaced in [these places],” she stated, urging continued support for underfunded relief operations. “Regrettably, the mission continues to be targeted by mis- and disinformation, as well as threats and attacks,” she said, condemning the killing of civilians by national security forces on 30 August in Goma. “I am hopeful that the trials currently underway will provide justice to the bereaved families of the victims, including one police officer, and shed light on the circumstances surrounding this tragic event.”
Mobile cyber threats rising in Nigeria, others – Report
Africa has become one of the hotspots of mobile cyber threats in the world, according to new research published Thursday by Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity and digital privacy company. The report indicates that threats to mobile devices increased in the second quarter of 2023. Among the most prevalent mobile threats that were detected in the Middle East, Turkiye and the African region are “adware and mobile banking threats.”
Record-breaking spike in countries buying Israeli arms and cyber
The number of countries to which the Defense Ministry has authorized exports of weapons and security-related cyber systems has skyrocketed in recent years, according to its own official data. The figures coincide with the export records of Israel’s defense industries, which broke their own records two years in a row.
Yaccarino defends X over hate speech rise accusations
Former Twitter trust and safety head Yoel Roth accused Elon Musk at a conference Wednesday of ruling by dictate, rather than policy, and decimating the reputation of the platform known as X. Roth made the comments at the Code Conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif., where X CEO Linda Yaccarino described an ambitious, growing company that will be profitable by next year.
Microsoft CEO says Google’s deals with Apple led to its dominance
The Washington Post
Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella argued Monday in a D.C. courtroom that Google’s search engine is dominant because of deals locking it in as the default across smartphones and computers, as he testified in an antitrust trial that could affect the balance of power between the two Silicon Valley giants. These contracts between Google and major handset makers ensure that virtually every smartphone sold in the United States comes out of the box with Google search as the default.
Meta's new AI assistant trained on public Facebook and Instagram posts
Meta Platforms used public Facebook and Instagram posts to train parts of its new Meta AI virtual assistant, but excluded private posts shared only with family and friends in an effort to respect consumers' privacy, the company's top policy executive told Reuters in an interview. Meta also did not use private chats on its messaging services as training data for the model and took steps to filter private details from public datasets used for training, said Meta President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg, speaking on the sidelines of the company's annual Connect conference this week.
Inside Meta’s plan to bring generative AI to billions
The Sydney Morning Herald
Meta has joined the chatbot race, with chief executive Mark Zuckerberg last week revealing the company’s grand vision to bring the technology beyond professionals and enthusiasts to the public at large. At the keynote presentation for the company’s annual Connect event, Zuckerberg showed off Meta AI, which is similar to other chatbots in that you can talk to it to summarise topics, make creative suggestions in response to specific and complex requests and (in the future) access the internet to find what you need. But he also revealed more than two dozen specialised agents for different topics, which users will be able to interact with in chats and social apps as though they’re real people.
How Big Tech is co-opting the rising stars of artificial intelligence
The Washington Post
Gerrit De Vynck
In 2021, a group of engineers abandoned OpenAI, concerned that the pioneering artificial intelligence company had become too focused on making money. Instead, they formed Anthropic, a public-benefit corporation dedicated to creating responsible AI. This week, the do-gooders at Anthropic threw in with a surprisingly corporate partner, announcing a deal with Amazon worth up to $4 billion. The arrangement highlights how AI’s insatiable need for computing power is pushing even the most anti-corporate start-ups into the arms of Big Tech. Before Anthropic announced Amazon as its “preferred” cloud partner, it boasted in February of a similar relationship with Google.
NASA’s Mars rovers could inspire a more ethical future for AI
Since ChatGPT’s release in late 2022, many news outlets have reported on the ethical threats posed by artificial intelligence. Tech pundits have issued warnings of killer robots bent on human extinction, while the World Economic Forum predicted that machines will take away jobs. The tech sector is slashing its workforce even as it invests in AI-enhanced productivity tools. Writers and actors in Hollywood are on strike to protect their jobs and their likenesses. And scholars continue to show how these systems heighten existing biases or create meaningless jobs – amid myriad other problems. There is a better way to bring artificial intelligence into workplaces. I know, because I’ve seen it, as a sociologist who works with NASA’s robotic spacecraft teams.
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