Russian Intelligence Is Pushing False Claims of U.S. Biological Testing in Africa, U.S. Says

 

source: https://www.wsj.com, contributed by FAN Chuck Miller  |  image: pexels.com

 

Media disinformation operation with Wagner Group link takes aim at American influence on continent

 

WSJ: Michael R. Gordon, Gabriele Steinhauser, Dustin Volz, and Ann Simmons

Russian intelligence agencies are trying to undermine U.S. influence in Africa by spreading disinformation that Africans have been the unwitting test subjects in Pentagon biological research programs and casting aspersions on Western public-health programs, U.S. officials said. 

The effort is part of a Russian campaign to counter the U.S. in Africa and Latin America as Washington and Moscow battle for public opinion around the world. 

At the heart of the Russian campaign is “African Initiative,” an online news service set up late last year that has used social media to promote criticism of Western public-health efforts in Africa and convened a conference in which participants disparaged Western pharmaceutical companies.

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China had “persistent” access to U.S. critical infrastructure

source: https://www.axios.com, contributed by FAN, Steve Page  |  image: pexels.com

 

China-backed hackers have had access to some major U.S. critical infrastructure for “at least five years,” according to an intelligence advisory released Wednesday.

Why it matters: The hacking campaign laid out in the report marks a sharp escalation in China’s willingness to seize U.S. infrastructure — going beyond the typical effort to steal state secrets.

  • The advisory provides the fullest picture to-date of how a key China hacking group has gained and maintained access to some U.S. critical infrastructure.

Details: The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation released an advisory Wednesday to warn critical infrastructure operators about China’s ongoing hacking interests.

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Taliban weighs using US mass surveillance plan, met with China’s Huawei

 

source: reuters.com  |  image: pixabay.com

 

KABUL, Sept 25 (Reuters) – The Taliban are creating a large-scale camera surveillance network for Afghan cities that could involve repurposing a plan crafted by the Americans before their 2021 pullout, an interior ministry spokesman told Reuters, as authorities seek to supplement thousands of cameras already across the capital, Kabul.

The Taliban administration — which has publicly said it is focused on restoring security and clamping down on Islamic State, which has claimed many major attacks in Afghan cities — has also consulted with Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei about potential cooperation, the spokesman said.

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DOD Represented at Five Eyes Technology Principals Meeting

 

source: defense.gov  |  image: department of defense

 

Last week, Dr. Steven G. Wax, performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Science and Technology, presented the National Defense Science and Technology Strategy at the Technology Cooperation Program (TTCP) Principals Meeting.

TTCP is a science and technology alliance among the Five Eyes (FVEY) nations – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Representatives met Sept. 11-15, 2023, in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

That strategy highlights the important role our allies and partners play in our research and development ecosystem.

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Russia-Linked RomCom Hackers Targeting NATO Summit Guests

source: securityweek.com  |  image: pixabay.com

 

A recent RomCom cyber operation has been targeting NATO Summit guests and other entities supporting Ukraine.

As part of a recently identified cyber operation, a Russia-linked threat actor known as RomCom has been targeting entities supporting Ukraine, including guests at the 2023 NATO Summit taking place July 11-12, the cybersecurity unit at BlackBerry reports.

Taking place in Vilnius, Lithuania, the NATO Summit has on the agenda talks focusing on the war in Ukraine, as well as new memberships in the organization, including Sweden and Ukraine itself.

Taking advantage of the event, RomCom has created malicious documents likely to be distributed to supporters of Ukraine, and appears to have dry-tested its delivery on June 22 and a few days before the command-and-control (C&C) domain used in the campaign went live,BlackBerry explains.

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Hints of cyber’s role in Taiwan

source: axios.com, contributed by Artemus FAN, Bill Amshey  |  image: pixabay.com

 

he latest evidence of China-linked hackers infiltrating U.S. critical infrastructure is highlighting what role cyberattacks could end up playing in a possible invasion of Taiwan.

What’s happening: Earlier this week, researchers at Microsoft unveiled that a Chinese state-sponsored groupknown as Volt Typhoon has been targeting critical infrastructure organizations in the U.S. and Guam.

  • Affected organizations spanned a long list of sectors: communications, manufacturing, utility, transportation, construction, maritime, government, information technology and education.
  • Volt Typhoon, which has been in operation since mid-2021, infiltrated these organizations by targeting internet-facing devices running Fortinet’s FortiGuard products, per Microsoft.
  • Once inside, the hackers can start “living off the land” and obtain access to a network by stealing user credentials and rerouting any suspicious traffic through home routers, Microsoft said.

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China is doubling down on its race to the moon

source: fastcompany.com  |  image: pixabay.com

China cemented its lunar goals in June 2021, when it formed the International Lunar Research Station.

China has set out a road map to compete with the Artemis program in a race to the moon, grabbing the attention of NASA and U.S. lawmakers. 

As NASA pursues increased funding to ensure the U.S. lands first, questions remain regarding China’s ability to finance the endeavor.

“China’s funding is a bit of a black box,” says Kevin Pollpeter, a China space program expert at the Center for Naval Analyses. “But if they felt they could not afford to go to the moon, they would not have gotten it approved.” 

CHINA’S 2023 LUNAR ROAD MAP

China has recently released a flurry of new details on its lunar goals, including accelerated timelines and a slew of technical designs. In just the first five months of the year, Beijing has:

  • Unveiled designs for its lunar lander;
  • Released details on its fully reusable Long March 9 rocket;
  • Begun building an international coalition for its moon base;
  • Announced plans to break ground on a lunar base by 2028;
  • Declared its goal of landing a crew on the moon by 2030.

​​“By 2030, the Chinese people will definitely be able to set foot on the moon. That’s not a problem,” said Wu Weiren, chief designer of the lunar program at China’s Space Day last month. 

HUGE INVESTMENT 

Landing humans on the moon is a pricey undertaking. From 2012 through 2028, NASA will spend an estimated $102.5 billion on the Artemis program. 

  • 2012-2023: $61 billion of program expenditures, according to NASA’s inspector general and recent budget allocations
  • 2024-2028: $41.5 billion, according to a NASA update on May 15, 2023
CHINA’S BUDGET

Research firm Euroconsult estimates that China spent roughly $12 billion on its space program in 2022; $12 billion per year would likely be insufficient for China to fund both the Tiangong low Earth orbit station and a $100 billion-plus lunar program, though it’s possible more is currently being spent in opaque budgets. 

As China ramps up its lunar program, funding will need to balloon alongside of it, possibly mixing with much larger military budgets. 

ILRS VS. ARTEMIS

China cemented its lunar goals in June 2021, when it formed the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). The goal of the ILRS program is similar to Artemis: to build a permanent scientific base on the moon.

Beijing has tapped Russia as its key partner for the effort. However, with Russia occupied by its war efforts, set back by sanctions, and generally limited by a smaller gross domestic product, China has taken the lead on ILRS funding and program direction.

The South China Morning Post reported that China and Russia have thus far secured ILRS cooperation agreements or letters of intent with the following nations:

  • Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (consisting of eight Asian nations)
  • Argentina
  • Pakistan
  • Brazil
  • United Arab Emirates, which is also a signee of the Artemis Accords

The agreements may be more ceremonial in nature, as no financial commitments or technology transfers have been announced.

LUNAR AMBITIONS

China’s interest in the moon holds potential economic, military, and reputation benefits for Beijing.

  • Economic: China believes the cislunar economy will grow to $10 trillion per year by 2050. 
  • Military: The Chinese Communist Party is focused on counteracting U.S. space dominance and its rising Space Force budget. 
  • Reputation: Chinese President Xi Jinping is eager to establish the nation as a leader in space and science. 

“There is a prestige factor involved. Going to the moon would be a big feather in China’s cap,” Pollpeter says. “This is a way for them to demonstrate themselves on the world stage.”

China’s play at the moon has gotten the attention of top U.S. officials at NASA, the Department of Defense, and on Capitol Hill. “We are in a space race with China,” NASA chief Bill Nelson testified at a Senate hearing on the space agency’s FY24 budget. 

TECHNICAL MILESTONES

The Artemis program is a number of years ahead of China’s lunar timeline. The U.S. has already launched its heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket, begun testing its Starship lunar lander, and commenced construction on a Lunar Gateway. 

China, on the other hand, faces numerous technical hurdles in landing on the moon. While China has released a slew of technical mock-ups of spacecraft and station designs, they remain in the early stages of engineering and testing. 

China May Not Need Western Technology Much Longer

source: Bloomberg.com, contributed by Artemus FAN Bill Amshey & Founder Bob Wallace  |  Image:  pexels.com

 

The latest ranking of global spending on research and development has US tech companies on top and Chinese rivals on the rise.

Western countries have become increasingly wary of sharing technology with China, with the US and Netherlands recently imposing new restrictions on exports of semiconductors and the equipment used to make them. Meanwhile, Chinese companies are rising up the list of the world’s biggest spenders on research and development — a sign that perhaps they won’t need that Western technology much longer.

When I last compiled one of these lists five years ago, mobile infrastructure and device maker Huawei Investment & Holding Co. was in sixth place behind Microsoft, just as it is here, but it was the only Chinese company in the global top 25. It has been joined by TikTok owner ByteDance Ltd., WeChat owner and gaming giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. and e-commerce, payments and cloud-computing purveyor Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. The $14.6 billion figure for ByteDance is for 2021 and comes from a report the privately held company shared with employees last year, which the Wall Street Journal reported on in October. The Information reported on April 1 that ByteDance has told investors revenue rose 30% in 2022, so I would guess its 2022 R&D spending would rank even higher.

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Russia Braces For Attack By 50,000 Ukrainian Kamikaze Drones, Seeks Shotguns

source: forbes.com (contributed by FAN Steve Jones)  |  image: pexels.com

Russian social media on the Ukraine war is buzzing with fear of an imminent attack by thousands of small kamikaze drones that could overwhelm their front lines.

Posts by a blogger using the handle Russian Engineer usually get a few thousand views, but one of his latest entries has now been seen 1.9 million times. Ukrainian military and political observer Alexei Arestovich says they are preparing a drone offensive,and in January Ukrainian General Command announced the formation of new tactical drone assault units. Russian Engineer has put these together with information from other sources to predict an onslaught of miniature attack drones.

Recently, it has become known that, in terms of drones, buyers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have bought up almost the entire market of FPV drone components in China, according to indirect estimates, by 50-100 thousand units,” writes Russian Engineer. “They have already trained more than a thousand operators of these models. They make them into kamikaze with a shaped charge warhead from RPG RPG -0.2%-7, or with a fragmentation grenade. And they have accumulated all this before the offensive.”

Racing drones, also known as FPV or First Person View drones, are smaller than standard quadcopters but have powerful motors giving speeds of 120 mph or more. They lack the sophisticated electronics for steady hover and smooth flight for good camerawork. Instead they are designed for high-speed, seat-of-the-pants flying around demanding courses, piloted using video gogglesDrone racing is a popular sport in many countries.

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China’s Top Airship Scientist Promoted Program to Watch the World From Above

source: nytimes.com, contributed by FAN, Bill Amshey  |  image: pixabay.com

 

Corporate records and media reports reveal an airship scientist at the center of China’s high-altitude balloon program. Companies he has founded were among those targeted by Washington.

In 2019, years before a hulking high-altitude Chinese balloon floated across the United States and caused widespread alarm, one of China’s top aeronautics scientists made a proud announcement that received little attention back then: His team had launched an airship more than 60,000 feet into the air and sent it sailing around most of the globe, including across North America.

The scientist, Wu Zhe, told a state-run news outlet at the time that the “Cloud Chaser” airship was a milestone in his vision of populating the upper reaches of the earth’s atmosphere with steerable balloons that could be used to provide early warnings of natural disasters, monitor pollution or carry out airborne surveillance.

“Look, there’s America,” Professor Wu said in an accompanying video, pointing on a computer screen to a red line that appeared to trace the airship’s path across Asia, northern Africa, and near the southern edge of the United States. By the time of the report, it was over the Pacific Ocean.

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