Cyber Week in Review: February 10, 2023
New media spoofing methods and deepfakes discovered in Russian disinformation campaign
According to a new study by the European Union (EU), Russian actors are now impersonating international print and TV media outlets to spread disinformation. These operations, carried out by state-backed groups, copy the style and look of foreign outlets in order to legitimize pro-Russia content and undermine support for Ukraine. In response, major media platforms will now be required to report compliance efforts in accordance with a new EU code on disinformation, which aims to strengthen monitoring framework and transparency measures. In addition, the social media analytics firm Graphika recently discovered a Chinese backed campaign that used deepfake newscasts to bolster Russian messaging. A recent video, for example, used A.I. technology to show fictitious ‘Americans’ voicing support for the Russia-aligned government of Burkina Faso.
India bans hundreds of apps with Chinese links
The Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology announced this week that it was banning nearly three hundred betting and lending applications, many of which were developed by Chinese firms. The Ministry said that the apps are engaged in predatory lending and could be used as tools of espionage or propaganda. India has tightened regulations on financial apps in the last two years, and has banned other Chinese apps from India under Section 69a of the IT ACT. Notably, the Indian government previously banned TikTok and WeChat from the country amid tensions with China, calling the apps a national security risk.
Google unveils “Bard” chatbot to compete with ChatGPT
On Monday, Google announced its upcoming “Bard” chatbot, a new conversational AI service to rival Microsoft-backed ChatGPT. It utilizes Google’s conversation technology LaMDA, or Language Model for Dialogue Applications, and will first be made available to a group of “trusted testers”, before its full release in the coming weeks. This week Microsoft released a new version of its search engine Bing, powered by AI, and if Google is expected to do the same soon. The use of AI is expected to radically change search, creating “an entirely new way of interacting with information on the internet,” in the words of New York Times’ technology columnist Kevin Roose.
Iran hacks Charlie Hebdo magazine
Microsoft attributed a December 2022 hack of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to an Iranian government-sponsored threat actor, Emennet Pasargad. The attack was likely motivated by Charlie Hebdo’s call for satirical drawings mocking Iranian supreme leader Ali Khameni. The attackers stole the personal information of over 200,000 Charlie Hebdo subscribers, leaked a portion of the data online, and offered the entire database for sale in the days following the attack. After posting the data for sale, the Iranian government used a network of fake accounts on social media to amplify stories about the leak. The cyberattack took place almost eight years after fourteen people were killed in a terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.
Quad launches Cyber Challenge initiative
The Quad countries of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States issued a joint statement announcing the launch of the “Quad Cyber Challenge,” an invitation to users across the Indo-Pacific to practice “safe and responsible cyber habits.” Governments, corporations, nonprofits, and educational institutions have been invited to partake in the program. An accompanying media note from the U.S. State Department said the initiative hopes to promote the Quad partners’ efforts to “foster a more secure and resilient cyber ecosystem to benefit economies and users everywhere.” The move is another example of cooperation on cyber issues among the Quad countries, who adopted joint principles on cybersecurity during a summit in Tokyo in May 2022.