Russian government hackers reportedly infiltrated multiple U.S. government agencies, including the Treasury and Commerce departments, as part of a worldwide espionage campaign that dates back months, people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post in a Monday report.
Over the weekend, officials were clambering to evaluate the nature and extent of the breach and implement effective countermeasures, but initial signs suggested the breach was long-running and significant, the people familiar with the matter told The Post.
The hackers, known by the nicknames APT29 or Cozy Bear, are part of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and in some cases they breached email systems, the people familiar with the breach told The Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity. This is the same Russian group that hacked the State Department and the White House email servers during the Obama administration.
The FBI is investigating the campaign, which may have begun as early as springtime, and had no comment Sunday, according to The Post. The list of hacking victims have included government, consulting, technology, telecom, and oil and gas companies in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, according to FireEye, a cybersecurity firm that was breached too.
On Sunday, the Russian Embassy in Washington called Russian hacking reports “baseless attempts by American media to accuse Russia of hacking on US government authorities.”
The statement continued, saying that “attacks in the information space contradict the foreign policy principles of our country, its national interests and understanding of how relations between states are built. Russia does not conduct ‘offensive’ operations in a virtual environment.”
It was through the update server of a network management system made by the firm SolarWinds that all of the entities were hacked, FireEye said in a blog post Sunday.
Want more information about this story? Read the full original Washington Post story here.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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REPORT: China has vast network of covert police stations around the world
China has a vast network of covert police stations abroad, according to a recent report by Safeguard Defenders, an NGO that focuses on human rights violations in China and other Asian countries. These police stations serve consular functions, but are also used by China to crack down on what the CCP deems “illegal” activity of Chinese nationals abroad. The police stations include at least 38 run by the Fuzhou City police, and 22 run by the Qingtian City police. Cities housing these police stations include New York, Toronto (which has three stations), London (two), Paris (three), Buenos Aires, Rio De Janeiro, and Tokyo.
Key findings of the report are below.
“Persuaded to return”
According to China, China has “persuaded to return [to China]” 230,000 Chinese nationals living aboard from April 2021 to July 2022 alone to face charges of fraud and telecommunications fraud. A Yangxia police station set up in Mozambique, for example, persuaded a Chinese national to return to China after being accused of stealing money from his employer. Chinese authorities also put pressure on the accused family to convince the accused to surrender.
Roughly 54,000 Chinese nationals were persuaded to return from northern Myanmar alone, in the first nine months of 2021. In July 2022, the government of Wenchang City warned that its citizens living in northern Myanmar must check in with their local police stations or face multiple penalties including blocking their children from attending urban schools back in China. Similarly, in February 2022, the government of Liayang City stated that Chinese “illegally staying” in northern Myanmar must return or the bank accounts of their immediate family members could be frozen.
The Nine Forbidden Countries
China has claimed that nine countries contain serious levels of fraud and telecom fraud perpetrated by Chinese nationals. Since November 2021, China has declared that Chinese citizens living in these nine countries must return to China immediately unless they have an “emergency reason” or a “strict necessity” to travel or stay in those countries. Those countries are: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, the UAE, and Turkey. However, the report questions whether these countries are truly awash in such fraud, as most of China’s oversees police stations are in the West, and only one of the nine countries (Cambodia) has such a police station. Chinese staying in the nine forbidden countries, as well as threats to family members as stated above, creates a “guilt-by-association” atmosphere intended to repatriate the Chinese nationals.
According to the report, Chinese police stations abroad serve to bypass “bilateral extradition treaties or other mechanisms of judicial cooperation” to cooperate with CCP-linked NGOs which effectively “[sets] up an alternative policing and judicial system within third countries.” Instead of using international judicial cooperation, which establishes due process, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a fair trial, China uses the above “persuade-to-return” methods and transnational police stations to circumvent international law and coerce Chinese nationals to return to China for trials. These policies show the power of China’s long-arm oppression over its own subjects.
You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic
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