Accusations of spying and theft are not new when it comes to intelligence. For centuries, countries have stolen from each other in the name of attempting to secure an advantage over the other for whatever reason, which always comes down to some form of power contests.
Historically there are two interests that are fought over, and these are financial and industrial materials. Financial can include gold, silver, or another commodity determined to be “valuable” for a particular culture. Industrial materials speak for themselves, as this is the goods needed to build war weapons and run society. It can be anything from metals and minerals to something as simple as water access. These conflicts continue in modern times, with for example the Tennessee-Georgia Water Dispute which “has existed since the 19th century, but was further fueled by the increase in demand for water due to the rapid growth of the Atlanta metropolitan area which began in the latter 20th century” (source) and is a matter of humorous to persistent legal fighting between the two states.
In the last thirty years, data has emerged as another major resource to be controlled. While it is yet to be determined if it is an industrial resource or stands as a separate category is yet to be ascertained, it can be concluded that big data is a source of great money, power, and something that can be used as a weapon in the hands of a skilled manipulator. As such, it has been an intense point of focus for government and business alike.
Spying today involves traditional “spywork,” but also the integration of data theft and manipulation. The US has been doing this for years along with Russia, but also China. In accordance with her history, China is now doing the to her foreign “enemies”, but also to her own people, who she looks upon with great scorn and mistrust, and has a historical tendency to severely abuse, and which is something that always leads to her downfall.
Thus it is without surprise that a recently exposed malware program which used “watering-hole” type attacks to identify and target users of IPhones for over two years was reported to be part of a project whose goal is to monitor all the activities of Chinese Uighur Muslims.
While it was originally based on IPhones, further research uncovered that the efforts were extended to include attempts to infect Android-based and Microsoft-type devices as well. TechCrunch this past weekend reported that the campaign is ‘the work of a state actor’ —likely the Chinese government -which for years has sought to dominate and monitor all Uighur activities. Likewise Google, who became famous for its “do no evil” slogan and her quiet assistance given to the Chinese government, was criticized again for not discussing which sites were used to infect users and refused to comment further:
Victims were tricked into opening a link, which when opened would load one of the malicious websites used to infect the victim. It’s a common tactic to target phone owners with spyware.
One of the sources told TechCrunch that the websites also infected non-Uygurs who inadvertently accessed these domains because they were indexed in Google search, prompting the FBI to alert Google to ask for the site to be removed from its index to prevent infections.
A Google spokesperson would not comment beyond the published research. A FBI spokesperson said they could neither confirm nor deny any investigation, and did not comment further.
Google faced some criticism following its bombshell report for not releasing the websites used in the attacks. (source)
A Microsoft spokesperson is said to have told Forbes Magazine, who also conducted her own research into the matter, that the group which uncovered and made knowledge of the operation available to the public “was very specific in its blog post that the recently publicized attacks used unique iPhone exploits and they have not disclosed similar information to us.”
It was researchers at Google’s Project Zero who last week revealed the iPhone portion of the malware operation, which attempted to infect device users with a malware implant, using exploits delivered via a small number of compromised websites. Altogether, Google found five distinct exploit chains covering IPhone versions iOS 10 through the latest version of iOS 12.
The 1992 film “Sneakers” was about a new coding box that would potentially have the capability to undermine any cryptography efforts in the world. The team commissioned to find and deliver the box to her legitimate owner in the film, after going through several fights with different groups, determines that it was not about a fight between the Russians and Americans, or even a private criminal group, but it was different departments in the government fighting for control to spy on each other.
So often times things are in life, where the “spy tools” meant to keep people “safe” are actually not about safety at all, but either ego contests between pompous groups of people, or for some members of a group to oppress their own in the name of “safety” when it is really just a contest over power.
Another final point, and something that few want to bring up, is the treatment of the Uighurs.
Like them or not, and for whatever reason, the fact is that the treatment of them in an indication of how the Chinese government looks at her citizens. It does not matter that they are Muslims, because while threats from Islamic terrorism are real, terrorism is also used as a tool of domestic and international policy. The discussion of the Uighur “threat” is simply an excuse to grow the power of the Chinese government.
The US has her own “Uighurs,” but just by a different name. Some call it “illegal immigration,” some speak of secret “threats” from Islamic terrorists, and while not to discount the legitimate and real cases that have existed, too often are such things used as excuses for even more nefarious ideas and ideologies such as the loss of privacy and the promotion of nationalism to the public.
One should often beware of those claiming to “protect” somebody, for it is not uncommon that evil men masquerade as saviors to hide their deeds.