Eric Schmidt on the AI revolution & strategic competition with China | Facebook sent flawed data to misinformation researchers | Introducing The ASPI Sydney Dialogue

Follow us on Twitter. The Daily Cyber Digest focuses on the topics we work on, including cyber, critical technologies & strategic issues like foreign interference.

  • This AI opportunity coincides with a moment of strategic vulnerability. U.S. President Joe Biden has said that America is in a “long-term strategic competition with China. The Wire China

  • More than three years ago, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook trumpeted a plan to share data with researchers about how people interacted with posts and links on the social network But the information shared by Facebook had a major flaw, according to internal emails and interviews with the researchers. The New York Times

  • The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s The Sydney Dialogue is a world-first summit for emerging, critical and cyber technologies. The inaugural dialogue will be hosted virtually from Australia and will begin on 17–19 November 2021. Australian Strategic Policy Institute

ASPI ICPC

The Sydney Dialogue
Australian Strategic Policy Institute
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s The Sydney Dialogue is a world-first summit for emerging, critical and cyber technologies. The inaugural dialogue will be hosted virtually from Australia and will begin on 17–19 November 2021. The Sydney Dialogue will have an Indo-Pacific focus and will bring business, government and technology leaders together with the world’s best strategic thinkers, to debate, generate ideas and work towards common understandings of the challenges posed by new technologies. The program will commence with an opening address from Australian Prime Minister the Hon Scott Morrison. We are also delighted to announce that the Prime Minister of India – Narendra Modi – will also be giving a keynote address at the inaugural Sydney Dialogue.

  • Visit our new website here

Terror threats on rise following Afghanistan, coronavirus shutdowns: Minister
The Sydney Morning Herald
Rob Harris
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews says Australians cannot be complacent about the threat of terrorism amid the rise of home-grown religiously motivated and ideologically driven groups which have been fuelled by the “dark web” during the COVID-19 lockdown. “I don’t say this to scaremonger – rather – to ensure we’re clear-eyed about the threat; so we can prepare now to safeguard all Australians from those who would do us harm,” Ms Andrews will say in a speech to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. “Encrypted communications and global digital networks give these people a secure voice to a worldwide audience … Disruption associated with the pandemic has seen many stay home, alone, with little to do but search the internet for simple answers to complex global questions.”

World

The AI Revolution and Strategic Competition with China
The Wire China
@ericschmidt
This AI opportunity coincides with a moment of strategic vulnerability. U.S. President Joe Biden has said that America is in a “long-term strategic competition with China.” He is right. But it is not only the United States that is vulnerable; the entire democratic world is, too, because the AI revolution underpins the current contest of values between democracy and authoritarianism. We must prove that democracies can succeed in an era of technological revolution. China is now a peer technological competitor.

United Nations confirms hackers breached its systems earlier this year
CNN
@snlyngaas @RichardRothCNN
Unidentified hackers breached computer systems at the United Nations in April and the multinational body has had to fend off related hacks in the months since, a UN spokesperson said Thursday. The statement came after multiple private cybersecurity experts warned that cybercriminal forums had in recent months been selling access to login credentials for software that the UN uses to manage internal projects. The software could provide valuable access to intruders looking to extort the UN or steal data.

Australia

Quad has evolved swiftly, very effectively: Australian foreign minister Marise Payne
The Economic Times
The Quad has evolved "swiftly" and very "effectively" and Australia commends India for taking a strong leadership role in the region, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Friday. Referring to key challenges facing the world, the Australian foreign minister mentioned transnational crime, the persistent threat of terrorism, cyber and critical technology challenges and threats from dangerous disinformation as areas of concern.

  • Read the Foreign Minister’s speech here

India seeks Australian investment in defense industry
Associated Press
Ashok Sharma
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said there are opportunities for joint development and production of emerging defense technologies and mutual logistical support..Australia’s foreign and defense ministers are visiting Indonesia, India, South Korea and the United States to bolster economic and security relationships within the Asia-Pacific region, where tensions are rising with China..Dutton and Foreign Minister Marise Payne are holding joint talks with their Indian counterparts on Saturday to discuss economic security, cybersecurity, climate, critical technology and supply chains, Payne said before leaving Australia.

‘Every message was copied to the police’: the inside story of the most daring surveillance sting in history
The Guardian
@SimonParkin
Billed as the most secure phone on the planet, An0m became a viral sensation in the underworld. There was just one problem for anyone using it for criminal means: it was run by the police

China

Xi Jinping’s crackdown on everything is remaking Chinese society
The Washington Post
Lyric Li Alicia Chen Pei-Lin Wu
Over the summer, China’s multibillion-dollar private education industry was decimated overnight by a ban on for-profit tutoring, while new regulations wiped more than $1 trillion from Chinese tech stocks since a peak in February. As China’s tech moguls compete to donate more to President Xi Jinping’s campaign against inequality, “Xi Jinping Thought” is taught in elementary schools, and foreign games and apps like Animal Crossing and Duolingo have been pulled from stores. A dizzying regulatory crackdown unleashed by China’s government has spared almost no sector over the past few months.

Xi Jinping risks toppling China's tech house of cards
Nikkei Asia
Nina Xiang
Still, Beijing's policymakers seem to be ignoring the lessons of the recent past. Moves to buy stakes in Chinese tech companies, appoint their own directors, as well as advocating how private enterprise can help achieve the political goal of common prosperity, could end up damaging the very mechanisms that were the real drivers of China's tech advances. Painful memories of failed state-led semiconductor projects during the 1990s show the danger of government intervention when it comes to enterprise operations.

Alt-right finds new partners in hate on China’s internet
The Guardian
@nivincent
Populists and nationalists are spreading anti-Muslim, anti-feminist messages – but also backing the Communist party line.

An insider details the Chinese Communist Party’s disdain for ‘expendable’ entrepreneurs
The Wall Street Journal
@ByChunHan
China’s recent turn against its wealthy tycoons should surprise few people, least of all the entrepreneurs whom the Communist Party regard as dispensable tools in its effort to bolster authoritarian rule.

Chinese content platforms pledge self-discipline - industry group
Reuters
@brendagoh_
Chinese content platforms including Weibo and Tencent Video have agreed to enforce more self-discipline to help maintain a "clear" cyberspace environment, a government-affiliated industry association said on Saturday.

Chinese social media site Weibo suspends 22 K-pop accounts
BBC
@mrdiscopop
A group of K-pop fans in China have become the latest victims of a crackdown on celebrity culture. Twenty-two fan accounts have been suspended by Chinese social media site Sina Weibo for what it called "irrational star-chasing behaviour". Chinese social media site Weibo suspends 22 K-pop accounts.

China’s genetic profiling research faces pushback from academic journals over ethics concerns
South China Morning Post
@Lindadalew
An as yet unpublished review of forensic population genetics research by Moreau found that 17 per cent of papers that involved China’s police or justice system – through authorship or funding – contained genetic information on Tibetans, who make up just 0.5 per cent of China’s population. This proportion was 22 per cent for Uyghurs, who also account for less than 1 per cent of the national population.

Namewee banned from Weibo over Taliban remark
The Star
@IamRahimyRahim Fatimah Zainal C.Aruno R. Aravinthan
Malaysian rapper Namewee was banned from Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, after making a post criticising the Taliban, reported China Press.

Cathie Wood’s Ark cuts China positions ‘dramatically’
Financial Times
@urbandirt @tomhale_
“We have not eliminated our positions but we have reduced our positioning in China dramatically and we have swapped some of our holders, which became losers, into companies that we know are courting the government with ‘common prosperity’,” said Wood. Ark’s sharply consolidated China portfolio of companies seeking the government’s favour included JD Logistics, which Wood said was building infrastructure in third- and fourth-tier cities on extremely low gross margins. Wood also noted ecommerce platform Pinduoduo, which she said was investing heavily in the grocery sector and supply chains between farms and stores.

USA

Tracking viral misinformation
The New York Times
@daveyalb
More than three years ago, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook trumpeted a plan to share data with researchers about how people interacted with posts and links on the social network. But the information shared by Facebook had a major flaw, according to internal emails and interviews with the researchers. The data included the interactions of only about half of Facebook’s U.S. users — the ones who engaged with political pages enough to make their political leanings clear — not all of them as the company had said. Facebook told the researchers that data about users outside of the United States, which has also been shared, did not appear to be inaccurate.

Project Maven: Amazon And Microsoft scored $50 million In Pentagon surveillance contracts after Google quit
Forbes
@iblametom
After Google decided to quit working on Project Maven in 2018 thanks to staff protests, rivals Amazon and Microsoft quietly took on Department of Defense contracts worth $50 million to help the military identify objects from drone and other aerial footage, according to a new analysis of federal government contract records.

Biden administration takes aim at China’s industrial subsidies
The Wall Street Journal
@bobdavis187 @Lingling_Wei
The Biden administration is targeting Beijing’s widespread use of industrial subsidies that give its companies an edge over foreign rivals, an effort that could lead to new sanctions on Chinese imports and further strain U.S.-China relations..For years, Beijing has used subsidies to help Chinese manufacturers dominate industries such as steel, solar panels and auto parts. However, such programs have also led to wasteful projects, overproduction and deepening inefficiency in the Chinese economy. Now the government is trying to focus on industries it views as essential to the country’s future competitiveness, such as semiconductors, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Local governments’ ability to dole out free funds likely will be curtailed as well.

Democrats eye new $1 billion effort to crack down on Big Tech in sprawling economic package
The Washington Post
@TonyRomm @Cat_Zakrzewski
One of the top federal agencies overseeing Apple, Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley tech giants could see a boost to its budget as part of congressional Democrats’ sprawling $3.5 trillion economic package.

20 years after 9/11, surveillance has become a way of life
WIRED
@FoxCahn
Constant tracking has compromised Americans’ sense of themselves. But we may be able to regain our freedom.

National cyber director declares 'too soon to say we're out of the woods,' as US enjoys dip in ransomware
CyberScoop
@timstarks
After a summer marked by big ransomware attacks from suspected Russian gangs, some of those same groups went quiet. National Cyber Director Chris Inglis said Thursday that it’s too early to tell if the trend will hold.

Civil liberties groups pressure White House to fill surveillance oversight board
CyberScoop
@TonyaJoRiley
Privacy advocates are urging President Joe Biden to fill an independent watchdog board that could have an enormous impact on the future of the U.S. surveillance programs raised in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

WhatsApp fixes its biggest encryption loophole
WIRED
@brbarrett
The ubiquitous messaging service will add end-to-end encryption to backups, keeping your chats safe no matter whose cloud they're stored in.

Apple pays hackers six figures to find bugs in its software. Then it sits on their findings.
The Washington Post
@ReedAlbergotti
Hoping to discover hidden weaknesses, Apple for five years now has invited hackers to break into its services and its iconic phones and laptops, offering up to $1 million to learn of its most serious security flaws. But many who are familiar with the program say Apple is slow to fix reported bugs and does not always pay hackers what they believe they’re owed. Ultimately, they say, Apple’s insular culture has hurt the program and created a blind spot on security.

Inside DeepMind's secret plot to break away from Google
Business Insider
@HughLangley @MartinJBCoulter
For a while, some DeepMind employees referred to it as ""Watermelon."" Later, executives called it ""Mario."" Both code names meant the same thing: a secret plan to break away from parent company Google.

What China’s new data privacy law means for US tech firms
TechCrunch
Scott Pink
China enacted a sweeping new data privacy law on August 20 that will dramatically impact how tech companies can operate in the country. Officially called the Personal Information Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China (PIPL), the law is the first national data privacy statute passed in China.

  • Read Samantha Hoffman's article in Foreign Policy: The U.S.-China Data Fight Is Only Getting Started here

The downside to surveilling your neighbors
The Markup
@ToddFeathers
Neighbors have always peered out their windows at each other and discussed passersby. But new surveillance technologies like Nextdoor, Ring cameras, civilian license plate readers, and crime reporting apps—which have quickly attracted police admiration—are fundamentally changing the dynamics of snooping on neighbors. And not necessarily for the best.

Smart lasses made Google look dumb. Now Facebook is giving them a try.
The New York Times
@MikeIsaac
“Facebook is not naïve to the fact that other smart glasses have failed in the past,” said Jeremy Greenberg, policy counsel for the Future of Privacy Forum, a privacy nonprofit that is partly financed by Facebook. But, he added, “the public’s expectations of privacy have changed since the days of previous smart glasses releases.”

Hackers are leaking children’s data — and there’s little parents can do
NBC
@kevincollier
The ongoing wave of ransomware attacks has cost companies and institutions billions of dollars and exposed personal information about everyone from hospital patients to police officers. It’s also swept up school districts, meaning files from thousands of schools are currently visible on those hackers’ sites. NBC News collected and analyzed school files from those sites and found they’re littered with personal information of children. In 2021, ransomware gangs published data from more than 1,200 American K-12 schools, according to a tally provided to NBC News by Brett Callow, a ransomware analyst at the cybersecurity company Emsisoft.

The Way Amazon Uses Tech to Squeeze Performance Out of Workers Deserves Its Own Name: Bezosism
The Wall Street Journal
@mims
The e-commerce giant has supercharged systems of management invented a century ago with surveillance, algorithms and data, leading to a new ‘ism’

Apple must allow other forms of in-app purchase, rules judge in Epic v. Apple
The Verge
@russellbrandom
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers issued a permanent injunction in the Epic v. Apple case on Friday morning, putting new restrictions on Apple’s App Store rules and bringing months of bitter legal jousting to a conclusion. In short, iOS apps must be allowed to direct users to payment options beyond those offered by Apple. The injunction is scheduled to take effect in 90 days — on December 9th — unless it is enjoined by a higher court.

The so-called ‘techlash’ is mostly in the minds of the media
Bloomberg
@Bershidsky
Every year since at least 2018, Facebook Inc. has led the S&P 500 companies in the number of days it faced negative news sentiment 1 , and Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Twitter Inc. have been in the top 10. Facebook averaged 255 negative news days in 2018 through 2020 and has had 157 such days so far this year; Google and Twitter haven’t been far behind. But the ceaseless beating the companies have been taking in the news contrasts with the relentless rise in their stock prices.

Virginia National Guard confirms cyberattack hit Virginia Defense Force email accounts
ZDNet
@jgreigj
Email accounts connected to the Virginia Defense Force and the Virginia Department of Military Affairs were impacted by a cyberattack in July, according to a spokesperson from the Virginia National Guard.

North Asia

Google handed user data to Hong Kong authorities despite pledge after security law was enacted
Hong Kong Free Press
@selina_cheng
Google has provided user data to the Hong Kong government in response to three requests made between July and December last year, making it the first US tech giant to disclose its compliance with requests from the local authorities for user data after the national security law was enacted last June.

South-East Asia

Indonesian intelligence agency compromised in suspected Chinese hack
The Record Media
@campuscodi
Chinese hackers have breached the internal networks of at least ten Indonesian government ministries and agencies, including computers from Indonesia’s primary intelligence service, the Badan Intelijen Negara (BIN). The intrusion, discovered by Insikt Group, the threat research division of Recorded Future, has been linked to Mustang Panda, a Chinese threat actor known for its cyber-espionage campaigns targeting the Southeast Asian region.

UK

State in running for new multibillion Intel investment
The Irish Times
Charlie Taylor
The Republic is in the running to land a major new multibillion-dollar Intel investment, the tech giant’s chief executive Pat Gelsinger has said.

UK suggests removing human review of AI decisions in data protection laws
Financial Times
@pmdfoster @madhumita29 @javierespft
The government will put itself on a collision course with data privacy campaigners and the EU on Friday when it suggests that the right to have a human review of some decisions made by computer algorithms could be removed in the UK.

Hands off our chips: Chinese takeover of British chip-maker blocked by Government over spying fears
The Sun
@NatashaC
Ministers have blocked a Chinese takeover of a British chip-maker over spying fears. They demanded it be investigated “on public interest grounds relating to national security”.

UK orders national security review of graphene firm’s takeover by Chinese scientist
The Guardian
@jjpjolly
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has ordered a national security review of a takeover by a Chinese academic of a small Welsh manufacturer of graphene – the thinnest and lightest “supermaterial” known.

Europe

Google's voice assistant in new EU antitrust investigation, MLex reports
Reuters
@FooYunChee @niveditabalu
Google faces an EU antitrust investigation over whether it may be forcing device makers to install Google Assistant as the default voice assistant on Android devices, news agency MLex reported on Thursday.

European and U.S. video game stocks drop after new China suspension scare
Reuters
@damasoni
European and U.S. video game stocks fell on Thursday after a reported suspension of approvals for online games in China clouded prospects for new business in the world’s biggest gaming market.

Transatlantic trade deal rises from the grave to fight China
POLITICO
@BMoens @markscott82
EU-US cooperation on tech could help heal some of the rifts over Afghanistan.

Ericsson to close major research centre in Nanjing amid shrinking 5G market share in China
South China Morning Post
Che Pan
Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson will shut down one of its five research centres in China, with plans to transfer 630 redundant employees to a partner, according to two people familiar with the matter, as the company rapidly loses share to domestic players such as Huawei Technologies Co in China’s 5G market.

Middle East

Iran’s Disinformation Ecosystem: A Snapshot
Selected Wisdom
@selectedwisdom
Iran’s propaganda and disinformation operations receive less attention than do the Russians’, but Tehran’s commitment to information warfare is substantial. Iran can’t move the opinions of American voters the way the Russians might—their reach into U.S. audiences remains too limited. But the Iranians can and at times have sewn chaos amongst European and U.S. audiences. Iran, despite being a regional power with limited resources, has created a significant information operations capability. In total, there’s public evidence that Iran programs in at least 32 languages and operates hundreds of websites and social media handles mixing true and false news.

A spyware app designed to monitor Kurdish targets attracted more than 1,400 downloads
CyberScoop
@jeffstone500
More than 1,400 people have downloaded a spyware app that, while appearing to deliver news, enables hackers to collect sensitive data about the Kurds, an ethnic community living throughout Iran, Iraq and northern Syria.

Africa

South African Justice Department Is Hit by Ransomware Attack
Bloomberg
@PaulMRichardson
South Africa’s Justice Department said it’s systems have been interrupted by a ransomware attack, the second such assault on a state institution in the past two months.

Events

Stronger together: how cyber defence alliances could create a stronger digital economy
Australian Strategic Policy Institute
At this webinar, panellists General (Ret.) Keith Alexander, former Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), Commander of U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), and founder of IronNet; Abigail Bradshaw CSC, Head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC); and Rachael Falk, CEO of the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre, will join moderator Fergus Hanson to discuss the collective measures government, industry, and academia can take to combat cyber threats to the benefit of our digital security and the growth of our digital economy. 30 September 2021, 8:30 am - 9:30 am.

FP Virtual Dialogue: Securing Our Digital Future
Foreign Policy
FP Analytics, in partnership with Microsoft, will unveil a groundbreaking special report on the economic, social, and geopolitical implications of escalating cybersecurity threats and the urgent need for international collaboration to combat them. The special report, Securing Our Digital Future, explores the dangers posed by rising cyber threats from both state and non-state actors—and the cost of inaction. September 23, 2021 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM EDT

Research

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Cybersecurity
Aspen Institute
@AspenPolicyHub
It’s estimated that only 4% of cybersecurity workers self-identify as Hispanic, 9% as Black, and 24% as women. The national reckoning on racial justice that began in mid-2020, prompted by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans at the hands of police, has further clarified that current DEI efforts, however well-meaning, have not addressed the overwhelming white-ness and male-ness of the cybersecurity field. Aspen Digital and the Aspen Tech Policy Hub have made recommendations for diversifying the cybersecurity industry across two categories: immediate actions and those that require further investment.

Jobs

New ICPC Program on Critical Technologies - 3 positions
ASPI ICPC
ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre (ICPC) has a unique opportunity for three exceptional and experienced senior analysts and analysts to join its large team from October 2021. These new roles will focus on original research, analysis and stakeholder engagement centred around international critical technology development, including analysis of which countries are leading on what technologies.

ICPC Pacific Islands Analyst - Information operations & disinformation
ASPI ICPC
ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre (ICPC) has an outstanding opportunity for a talented and proactive Pacific Islands analyst who will work with the Centre’s information operations and disinformation program. The successful candidate will work with a small, high-performing team to produce original research and analysis centred around policy responses to information operations and disinformation by actors in the Pacific Islands region. They will also work with senior staff in the centre to engage globally with governments, social media and Internet companies. Candidates must have a demonstrated background in, and strong knowledge of, the Pacific Islands region, including the region’s digital, media and social media landscape.

ICPC Analyst & Project Manager - Coercive diplomacy
ASPI ICPC @anshumandaga
ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre (ICPC) has a unique opportunity for an Analyst and Project Manager to manage, and help lead, a project on coercive diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific region. This new role will focus on analysis, workshops and stakeholder engagement centred around coercive diplomacy, including how countries in the Indo-Pacific can work together to tackle this complicated policy challenge. Candidates must have excellent coordination, project management and stakeholder engagement skills.

ICPC Senior Analyst or Analyst - China
ASPI ICPC
ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre (ICPC) has a unique opportunity for exceptional and experienced China-focused senior analysts or analysts to join its centre. This role will focus on original research and analysis centred around the (growing) range of topics which our ICPC China team work on. Our China team produces some of the most impactful and well-read policy-relevant research in the world, with our experts often being called upon by politicians, governments, corporates and civil society actors to provide briefings and advice. Analysts usually have at least 5 years, often 7-10 years’ of work experience. Senior analysts usually have a minimum of 15 years relevant work experience and, in addition to research, they take on a leadership role in the centre and tend to be involved in staff and project management, fundraising and stakeholder engagement.

Share