Leak of papers before UK election raises 'spectre of foreign influence' | China brings in mandatory facial recognition for mobile phone users | Cybercrime investigation shuts down insidious malware

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  • The leak and distribution of classified British-U.S. trade documents online resembles a disinformation campaign uncovered this year that originated in Russia, according to experts who say it could signal foreign interference in Britain's election. Reuters

  • All mobile phone users in China registering new SIM cards must submit to facial recognition scans, according to a new rule that went into effect across the country on Sunday. The Ministry claims change will ‘protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace’ but critics say it’s dystopian. The Guardian

  • A tool allowing cybercriminals to remotely and secretly gain control over a victim’s computer is no longer available as a result of an Australian-led operation targeting hackers allegedly using the Imminent Monitor Remote Access Trojan (IM-RAT). AFP

ASPI ICPC

Closing the information technology gap for Indigenous Australians
ASPI Strategist
@DarkiesDesign
Indigenous Australians have the opportunity to achieve financial success through a career in STEM. Why shouldn’t we encourage our First Nations peoples to strive for that through education, training and employment in the IT industry? Why can’t we be a people who are rich in culture and rich in wealth? This is absolutely achievable for Indigenous Australians, and participation in IT is key to getting there.This post is kicking off a series from ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre on Indigenous Australians in STEM and cyber policy.

ByteDance says TikTok and Douyin are different, but they face similar criticisms
SCMP
Then a new report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) found that the Chinese version of the app, Douyin, has been working with public security bureaus to disseminate state propaganda about the western region of China where a large number of Uygur Muslims reside. While this doesn’t sound new to anyone in China -- propaganda bureaus have long used social media and are now recruiting influencers -- it has cast a shadow over ByteDance, the owner of the apps, and its global ambitions.

  • Read the new report - Mapping more of China's tech giants: AI and surveillance
    ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre has updated the public database that maps the global expansion of key Chinese technology companies. This update adds a further 11 companies and organisations: iFlytek, Megvii, ByteDance (which owns TikTok), SenseTime, YITU, CloudWalk, DJI, Meiya Pico, Dahua, Uniview and BeiDou.

(Bart Hogeveen ASPI ICPC’s Head of Cyber Capacity Building, is in New York for the Intersessional meeting of the UN open-ended working group, Follow his live thread here.)

World

Australia

The Rat Trap: international cybercrime investigation shuts down insidious malware operation
AFP
A tool allowing cybercriminals to remotely and secretly gain control over a victim’s computer is no longer available as a result of an Australian-led operation targeting hackers allegedly using the Imminent Monitor Remote Access Trojan (IM-RAT).

The division in Canberra over China
AFR
@Johnkehoe23
In the 1990s and early 2000s, policy towards China was centred on building diplomatic relations and opening up markets for trade and investment. The advice of DFAT and Treasury generally prevailed. Today, the national security source says, the big issues confronting the government on China include the 5G mobile wireless network which Chinese telco Huawei was banned from supplying, securing supply of critical minerals such as rare earth for Australia and its foreign allies, foreign interference in democratic institutions, protecting personal data and critical infrastructure from cyberattacks, and the development of dual-purpose technology such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence. The national security agencies are at the forefront of advising on the intertwining of security, economics and technology.

Labor MP sounds alarm on TikTok time bomb
Perth Now
@dlmcculloch
Australian teenagers are tripping over themselves to create and share short videos on TikTok. But a federal politician fears the social media app could be a ticking time bomb after an American girl was banned from the app for criticising China's treatment of Uighur Muslims. Labor MP Tim Watts has sounded the alarm over TikTok's censorship.

China

China brings in mandatory facial recognition for mobile phone users
The Guardian
@lilkuo
All mobile phone users in China registering new SIM cards must submit to facial recognition scans, according to a new rule that went into effect across the country on Sunday. The Ministry claims the change will ‘protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace’ but critics say it’s dystopian.

China seeks to root out fake news and deepfakes with new online content rules
Reuters
Chinese regulators have announced new rules governing video and audio content online, including a ban on the publishing and distribution of “fake news” created with technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Any use of AI or virtual reality also needs to be clearly marked in a prominent manner and failure to follow the rules could be considered a criminal offence, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said on its website.

Huawei Manages to Make Smartphones Without American Chips
WSJ
@asafitch @DanStrumpf
American tech companies are getting the go-ahead to resume business with Chinese smartphone giant Huawei, but it may be too late: It is now building smartphones without U.S. chips.

Big Brother is watching: Chinese city with 2.6m cameras is world's most heavily surveilled
The Guardian
@guardian
Cities around the world are scaling up their use of surveillance cameras and facial recognition systems – but which ones are watching their citizens most closely?

China Uyghur Analytic Projects Require Intel And NVIDIA, Intel Condemns, NVIDIA Silent
IPVM
@ipvideo
At least 8 PRC China police projects require NVIDIA and Intel chips to power their Uyghur-detecting analytics, according to procurement documents found by IPVM.

Meet The Chinese Diplomat Who Got Promoted For Trolling The US On Twitter
BuzzFeed News
@BuzzFeedBen
The most interesting diplomat in the world these days may well be Zhao Lijian, the combative, bombastic, frankly Trumpy voice of the People’s Republic of China on Twitter. Zhao was in fine form this Thanksgiving weekend, offering an eight-part tweetstorm on American racism, tweeting at one point that the US was merely suffering from “replacement anxiety” at China’s unstoppable rise (he deleted that one), then mocking the US president.

(Tweet from Chinese diplomat Zhao Lijian attacking US President Donald Trump)

US hi-tech goods shipped through Hong Kong to face closer scrutiny under new democracy legislation
SCMP
@simonelmc
The United States’ latest piece of legislation on Hong Kong will mean closer scrutiny of the trade-in “dual-use” technologies to ensure the city is not used as a gateway for shipping regulated hi-tech American products to mainland China.

USA

Amazon lets doctors record your conversations and put them in your medical files
CNBC
@CHRISSYFARR
Amazon’s next big step in health care is with voice transcription technology that’s designed to allow doctors to spend more time with patients and less time at the computer.

North Asia

China Has Lost Taiwan, and It Knows It (Opinion)
NYT
@natashaskassam
Social media platforms are another key battleground: Nearly 90 per cent of Taiwan’s population is active on them, and traditional news outlets have been known to republish fake posts without fact-checking. According to Reuters, Chinese government agencies have paid Taiwanese news outlets to publish pro-Beijing content. By some accounts, a disinformation campaign conducted by a professional cybergroup from China, which was traced back to the publicity department of the Chinese Communist Party, helped the pro-China Han Kuo-yu get elected mayor of the southern city of Kaohsiung: One (false) story claimed that during a debate, Mr Han’s opponent wore an earpiece feeding him talking points. China is trying to erode Taiwan’s body politic from within.

South Asia

#GrabYourKeyboards': Inside Pakistan’s hashtag mills
Dawn
Almost 95% of the trending political campaigns in Pakistan are boosted artificially to mislead the public, giving a false impression that there is genuine grass-roots support or opposition for a particular group or narrative. While the trends are artificial, hashtag merchants are real people. This investigation found that influence campaigns in Pakistan are run by humans, not bots.

UK

Leak of papers before UK election raises 'spectre of foreign influence'
Reuters
@jc_stubbs
The leak and distribution of classified British-U.S. trade documents online resembles a disinformation campaign uncovered this year that originated in Russia, according to experts who say it could signal foreign interference in Britain's election.

Europe

Europe must put security first with 5G
Politico
EU communications ministers will gather in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss how to safeguard emerging fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks. Their decisions could have lasting impacts on European countries’ ability to protect their people’s privacy, and ultimately, safeguard their freedoms.

Telecoms chiefs back overhaul of EU competition policy
FT
The telecoms sector has thrown its weight behind the new European Commission’s plan to create industrial champions and overhaul its approach to competition policy. A letter signed by the chief executives of some of Europe’s largest telecoms companies states that they would support the move to provide Europe with an “industrial policy for digital leadership” which could provide a boost for the struggling sector in its battle with giant US technology companies.

Germany acts to stop sale of tech companies to non-EU investors
FT
The German government will temporarily take stakes in high-tech companies to stop them being sold to investors in non-EU countries, a proposal by the economy ministry that underscores the growing protectionist mood in Berlin… However, Mr Altmaier’s new industrial strategy still vastly increases the government’s powers to scrutinise and potentially block deals in sensitive parts of the economy. He said ministers should be able to intervene whenever a non-EU entity tried to acquire a stake of 10 per cent or more in any German company involved in such areas as artificial intelligence, robotics, semiconductors, biotech or quantum technology. Previously, the list was much narrower, covering only “critical infrastructure” such as electricity networks and IT security.

Middle East

Pegasus: Surveilling journalists from inside their phones
Aljazeera
This story starts with an Israeli company called the NSO Group. It says it is in the business of "cyber-intelligence for global security and stability". The company's primary product is known as Pegasus - a programme so sophisticated that it can embed into your mobile phone through just a phone call - even if you do not take the call.

Misc

The Race to Power AI’s Silicon Brains
MIT Technology Review
@martingiles
Chip startups see AI as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build big businesses. Many won’t make it.

How suspicions of spying threaten cross-border science
MIT Technology Review
@HowellONeill
An intelligence startup warns that China is exploiting Western quantum scientists for military ends. The evidence is thin, but tensions are rising.

Research

Public consultation: Responsible state behaviour in cyberspace in the context of international security at the United Nations
DFAT
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is calling for submissions to inform Australia’s engagement in two United Nations (UN) processes on responsible state behaviour in cyberspace. DFAT encourages interested individuals and organisations to make written submissions in relation to Australia’s priorities for the OEWG and GGE. Written submissions should be lodged by close of business 28 January 2020. Submissions should include your full name, email address and telephone number. Electronic lodgement is preferred.

Events

Indigi-Cyber Camp for Kids
ASPI ICPC
ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre warmly invites you to attend our inaugural Indigi-Cyber Camp for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids. Indigi-Cyber Camp is an initiative that is being led by ASPI and local Indigenous business Yerra, in partnership with SecuriDay, to give an opportunity for Indigenous youths to engage with I.T and Cyber in a fun and interesting way that will encourage future participation in I.T.