New ASPI report: The role of foreign influencers in China’s propaganda system | India warns social media firms to enforce rules to deter deepfakes | CSIS warns of online CCP recruitment campaign
Good morning. It's Monday 27th November.
The Daily Cyber & Tech Digest focuses on the topics we work on, including cybersecurity, critical technologies, foreign interference & disinformation.
A new ASPI report examines how a growing subset of foreign influencers, aware of the highly nationalistic online environment and strict censorship rules in China, is increasingly choosing to create content that aligns more explicitly with the CCP’s ‘main melody’. In addition to highlighting the country’s achievements in a positive light, these influencers are promoting or defending China’s position on sensitive political issues, such as territorial disputes or human rights concerns. ASPI
India's government on Friday warned social media firms including Facebook and YouTube to repeatedly remind users that local laws prohibit them from posting deepfakes and content that spreads obscenity or misinformation, two sources told Reuters. Reuters
Canada's spy agency is warning of a Chinese plot to recruit Canadian government officials and academics. In an alert sent to federal employees earlier this month and seen by CBC News, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service warns of a large-scale email campaign trying to lure workers into an overseas talent program. CBS
Singing from the CCP’s songsheet: The role of foreign influencers in China’s propaganda system
Fergus Ryan, Matt Knight & Daria Impiombato
This report examines how a growing subset of foreign influencers, aware of the highly nationalistic online environment and strict censorship rules in China, is increasingly choosing to create content that aligns more explicitly with the CCP’s ‘main melody’. In addition to highlighting the country’s achievements in a positive light, these influencers are promoting or defending China’s position on sensitive political issues, such as territorial disputes or human rights concerns.
Friendly foreign influencers win growing following in China
Kowal is one of a growing cohort of more than 120 foreign online influencers whom China appears to be “cultivating” to speak up for the governing Communist party and to defend the country against critical overseas narratives, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think-tank based in Canberra.
The hired-gun influencers who are ‘ready to stand up for China’
The Sydney Morning Herald
Ryan’s research on 120 foreign influencers, conducted with Matt Knight and Daria Impiombato and released on Saturday, shows the Chinese government has become more ambitious and sophisticated in its use of influencers to try to manage public opinion at home and abroad.
Singing the CCP’s tune: foreign influencers and China’s propaganda strategy
Fergus Ryan, Matt Knight and Daria Impiombato
In an era where digital content is king, the CCP has recognised the power that foreign influencers wield compared to more traditional communication channels. Boasting millions of followers in China and overseas, especially on platforms such as TikTok, YouTube and Twitter, the CCP has identified, harnessed and actively developed foreign influencers as unique propaganda assets. It’s become a symbiotic relationship—aligned influencers flourish under the CCP’s regulated social media ecosystem, while the party uses their popularity to bolster its legitimacy both domestically and internationally.
China lobs tech demo into orbit for People's Republic version of Starlink
China has launched an Internet Technology test satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China's Sichuan Province. China's various media mouthpieces said the payload consisted of a single satellite, and its description suggests the purpose is for testing technology to be used for the nation's version of mega-constellations, such as Starlink and the soon-to-be-launched Project Kuiper.
British AI chip darling Graphcore pulls out of China as Nvidia rival becomes latest casualty of US export curbs
South China Morning Post
British semiconductor firm Graphcore is slashing staff in China and will no longer sell products in the country, citing Washington’s latest export restrictions on sales of advanced artificial intelligence chips as the last straw in the market for the struggling company once regarded as a potential rival to industry leader Nvidia.
Nvidia delays launch of new China-focused AI chip -sources
Fanny Potkin and Yelin Mo
Nvidia has told customers in China it is delaying the launch of a new artificial intelligence chip it designed to comply with U.S. export rules until the first quarter of next year, two sources familiar with the matter said.
Pentagon's AI initiatives accelerate hard decisions on lethal autonomous weapons
The Pentagon is intent on fielding multiple thousands of relatively inexpensive, expendable AI-enabled autonomous vehicles by 2026 to keep pace with China. The ambitious initiative — dubbed Replicator — seeks to “galvanize progress in the too-slow shift of U.S. military innovation to leverage platforms that are small, smart, cheap, and many,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said in August.
At Meta, millions of underage users were an ‘open secret,’ states say
The New York Times
Meta has received more than 1.1 million reports of users under the age of 13 on its Instagram platform since early 2019 yet it “disabled only a fraction” of those accounts, according to a newly unsealed legal complaint against the company brought by the attorneys general of 33 states.
For teen girls victimized by ‘deepfake’ nude photos, there are few, if any, pathways to recourse in most states
Melissa Chan and Kat Tenbarge
Teenage girls in the U.S. who are increasingly being targeted or threatened with fake nude photos created with artificial intelligence or other tools have limited ways to seek accountability or recourse, as schools and state legislatures struggle to catch up to the new technologies, according to legislators, legal experts and one victim who is now advocating for a federal bill.
CSIS warns of Chinese recruitment campaign targeting Canadian government employees
Canada's spy agency is warning of a Chinese plot to recruit Canadian government officials and academics. In an alert sent to federal employees earlier this month and seen by CBC News, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service warns of a large-scale email campaign trying to lure workers into an overseas talent program.
Canada’s privacy watchdog investigating hack affecting military and RCMP personnel
The Record from Recorded Future News
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is investigating a cyberattack that compromised data on current and former members of the country’s armed forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Can Taiwan continue to fight off Chinese disinformation?
The New York Times
Tiffany Hsu, Amy Chang Chien and Steven Lee Myers
For years, China has pummeled the Taiwanese information ecosystem with inaccurate narratives and conspiracy theories, seeking to undermine its democracy and divide its people in an effort to assert control over its neighbor. Now, as fears over Beijing’s growing aggression mount, a new wave of disinformation is heading across the strait separating Taiwan from the mainland before the pivotal election in January.
ASEAN must pursue technology in ties with Japan, expert says
ASEAN must pursue technological cooperation with Japan to tackle climate change, food security and other pressing issues, the founder of a Malaysian think tank told Nikkei Asia in a recent interview.
The people targeting you with cyberscams may themselves be victims of slavery
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recently reported that scams, largely perpetuated online, had cost Australians an estimated $3.1bn in one year. That was an 80% increase on recorded 2021 losses. Clearly, these warnings require serious attention. These scams cause emotional and psychological trauma for victims, put serious stress on families and damage many businesses. Yet few consider that some of the people doing the scamming may also be victims of serious crime.
Crypto scam: Inside the billion-dollar ‘pig-butchering’ industry
Poppy McPherson and Tom Wilson
Fraudulent crypto investment schemes directed from Asia known as “pig butchering” have become a global billion-dollar industry. But little is known about those who benefit. Reuters traced at least $9 million linked to such scams to an account registered to a well-connected representative of a Chinese trade group in Thailand.
South & Central Asia
India warns Facebook, YouTube to enforce rules to deter deepfakes - sources
Munsif Vengattil and Aditya Kalra
India's government on Friday warned social media firms including Facebook and YouTube to repeatedly remind users that local laws prohibit them from posting deepfakes and content that spreads obscenity or misinformation, two sources told Reuters.
Ukraine - Russia
Putin says West cannot have AI monopoly so Russia must up its game
President Vladimir Putin on Friday warned that the West should not be allowed to develop a monopoly in the sphere of artificial intelligence, and said that a much more ambitious Russian strategy for the development of AI would be approved shortly.
Russia puts the spokesman for Facebook owner Meta on a wanted list
The Associated Press
Russia has added the spokesman of U.S. technology company Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, to a wanted list, according to an online database maintained by the country’s interior ministry.
Europe’s grid is under a cyberattack deluge, industry warns
Thousands of cyberattacks have inundated Europe's energy grid since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and a top industry leader is calling for help as officials and researchers fret that not nearly enough is being done.
AI Act: MEPs close ranks in asking for tighter rules for powerful AI models
The MEPs involved in the negotiations on the EU’s AI rulebook circulated a working paper detailing their proposed approach to regulating the most powerful Artificial Intelligence models on Friday.
Customers furious after HSBC down for more than 24 hours
Tom Gerken and Liv McMahon
HSBC has apologised after thousands of UK customers reported they were unable to access mobile and online banking for more than 24 hours. HSBC apologised for "the inconvenience". The bank told the BBC "an internal system issue" had caused the disruption.
Potentially hundreds of UK law firms affected by cyberattack on IT provider CTS
CTS, a managed service provider for law firms in the United Kingdom, is “urgently investigating” a cyberattack that has disrupted its services — potentially leaving hundreds of British law firms unable to access their case management systems.
Rhysida, the new ransomware gang behind British Library cyber-attack
A new name was added to the cyber-rogues’ gallery of ransomware gangs this week after a criminal group called Rhysida claimed responsibility for an attack on the British Library. The library confirmed that personal data stolen in a cyber-attack last month has appeared for sale online.
Ministers plough £2bn into making quantum technology ‘Britain’s ChatGPT’
Britain is investing £2.5 billion in quantum technologies in the hope it can provide a ChatGPT-style boost to the economy and protect against spies, the Science Minister has said.
Israel’s appetite for high-tech weapons highlights a Biden policy gap
Israel’s ferocious campaign to eliminate Hamas from the Gaza Strip is creating new demand for cutting-edge defense technology — often supplied directly by newer, smaller manufacturers, outside the traditional nation-to-nation negotiations for military supplies.
Slick videos or more 'authentic' content? The Israel-Gaza battles raging on TikTok and X
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, whose mother is Palestinian, tells me she and other politicians are receiving a "huge influx" of messages including from young people urging a ceasefire. They seem to have been inspired to act because of "TikTok videos and Instagram reels shared around over WhatsApp". "Anything that is too slick, their initial instinct seems to be - don't trust it. They expect it to be disinformation," the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon says.
X may lose up to $75 million in revenue as more advertisers pull out
The New York Times
Ryan Mac and Kate Conger
X, the social media company formerly known as Twitter, could lose as much as $75 million in advertising revenue by the end of the year as dozens of major brands pause their marketing campaigns after its owner, Elon Musk, endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory this month.
Sacking, revolt, return: how crisis at OpenAI over Sam Altman unfolded
When Sam Altman, the chief executive of OpenAI, took to the stage in San Francisco nine days ago he hinted at another significant development in the world of artificial intelligence. Given that he leads the company behind ChatGPT – a chatbot that has transformed the debate around AI – this was a tantalising comment. And a major event in AI did occur the next day – Altman was fired.
Events & Podcasts
Women in Defence and Security Network speed mentoring
ASPI’s Women in Defence and Security Network is delighted to invite you to join us on 30 November for our final speed mentoring event of the year. As one of WDSN’s flagship events, speed mentoring brings together a group of senior mentors with experience across defence, cyber, intelligence, foreign affairs and national security. Mentors have experience working in Parliament, the public service, industry and civil society, and they discuss their career experiences and lessons learned, as well as addressing specific questions from mentees.
The Daily Cyber & Tech Digest is brought to you by the Cyber, Technology & Security team at ASPI.