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BBC Chinese: China Cracks Down on “Illegal” VPN Services

BBC Chinese recently reported that China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology just revealed a one year plan to crack down on “illegal” Internet provider services. The Ministry issued a nationwide memo to identify and remove unlicensed or multi-level leased VPN services, regardless of whether the method was self-established or via leased lines. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, which is a technology that establishes a virtual “direct connection” between two computers based on encryption. This structure is widely used in countries with Internet censorship to bypass government monitoring. Many Chinese netizens use VPN to visit websites that the Chinese Great Firewall bans, such as Facebook and Twitter. The Chinese government’s latest move was conducted in the name of cracking down on “inappropriate content.”

Source: BBC Chinese, January 23, 2017

PLA Online Warfare Headquartered in Two Beijing Hotels

Well-known Chinese news site Sina recently reported on an article from Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA). The article indicated that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has its online warfare headquarters hidden in two Beijing hotels. The two hotels are the Jingtang Hotel and the Seasons Hotel in the Haidian District, Beijing. The Fourth Division of the General Staff of the Central Military Committee used to own the hotels, either directly or indirectly. The Fourth Division was once called the Electronic Warfare and Radar Operations Unit. With the latest Chinese military reform, the Fourth Division was assigned new roles to handle Strategic Support, Foreign Electronic and Intelligence Warfare, and Internet Attacks. Network Intelligence assignments are typically highly classified operations. It therefore makes sense to use the hotels as “under cover” headquarters locations. According to sources from the U.S. intelligence community, some guests who stayed at the Jingtang Hotel in 2012 left guest notes there mentioning the Fourth Division’s ownership of the hotel. In 2015, researchers attempted to book rooms in the two hotels and encountered booking system errors or received apologies from the hotel for closures.

Source: Sina, January 5, 2017

IT Home: Facebook Secretly Developing Filtering Technology for Censorship

Well-known Taiwanese technology news site IT Home recently reported that Facebook is quietly developing content filtering technology to comply with China’s censorship requirements. According to anonymous sources inside Facebook, this initiative has strong support and supervision from CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The new technology was constructed in exchange for being given permission to enter the Chinese market. However early signs show that the mechanism was designed in such a way that it will be operated by a third-party partner rather than by Facebook itself. China’s Facebook is currently blocked by China’s “Great Firewall.” The spokesperson for the company commented that Facebook has always been interested in the Chinese market, which has a population of 1.4 billion. Many observers in the industry expressed their concern over how many of its principles Facebook is willing to give up.

Source: IT Home, November 23, 2016

BBC Chinese: Over 40 International Trade Groups Wrote a Letter Objecting to China’s New Internet Security Law

BBC Chinese recently reported that more than 40 international trade associations and groups wrote a letter to the Chinese authority objecting to China’s newly passed Internet Security Act, which will take effect next June 1. These groups represent hundreds of global companies and technology organizations. The new Internet law prohibits anyone from posting content on China’s Internet that may “undermine national unity, disrupt the economic order or attempt to overthrow the socialist system.” The law also requires “key information infrastructure” service providers to store personal information and critical business data inside China. The providers are mandated to provide “technical support” to national security agencies and to pass national security reviews. The letter indicated that the new law will increase the cost of services and will damage the international companies’ partnership with China. Chinese officials said the law “won’t interfere with foreign commercial interests.” The letter, however, has the signatures of representatives of many key organizations, such as the Information Technology Industry Association, The Internet Society, the American Chamber of Commerce, the Australian Industry Group, and Business Europe.

Source: BBC Chinese, November 11, 2016

CNA: Pentagon Said Lenovo Products May Bring Network Hacking Risks

Taiwan’s primary news organization Central News Agency (CNA) recently reported, based on an article that appeared in the Washington Free Beacon, about the risks that may accompany the Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo. The J-2 Intelligence Directorate, which reports to the U.S. Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense, issued an internal warning that the U.S. military officials responsible for network security were concerned that purchasing Lenovo computers and cell phones may increase the risk of bringing network attacks into the U.S. military systems. J-2 also warned that Lenovo has attempted to get into the U.S. military network via acquiring U.S. vendors in the information industry. One U.S. official mentioned that Lenovo products were caught earlier secretly sending information to external individuals. Lenovo (U.S.) spokesperson Ray Gorman said he was not aware that the Joint Chiefs were paying attention to this matter. The spokesperson for the Joint Chiefs, Greg Hicks, refused to comment on individual reports. The Pentagon said the Department of Defense does not have a black list of suppliers.

Sources: Central News Agency, October 24, 2016
Washington Free Beacon, October 24, 2016

Xinhua: Chinese Online Crimes Spread across Borders

Xinhua recently reported from the Fourth China Internet Security Conference that research showed online criminal activities are getting more and more pervasive and are spreading across borders. What is called the "Online Dark Industry" has established an entire “industrial profit chain” reaching a revenue volume of RMB 100 billion (around US$15 billion). Many Chinese online criminals have been setting up phishing sites in Europe and the United States and have conducted different types of fraud back in China. While the cross-country investigations are highly limited due to a lack of cooperation among governments, research has shown that the international online crime rate has increased by 80 to 100 percent over the past couple of years. The study pointed out that the Chinese “Online Dark Industry” had 1.6 million “workers” as of the end of 2015. Most of the activities in this “industry” involve stealing personal information. More and more damage has been seen in the banking industry as well as in the stock market. Experts are calling for a global joint effort to battle these online threats.
Source: Xinhua, August 17, 2016
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