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US Indicts Chinese Hackers: Info of COVID Vaccines, Defence, Human Rights Activists

The Deciport Daily Quick-Look: 22 July 2020

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US Federal Bureau of Investigation wanted poster of Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi. Image: FBI

Theft of information includes data on COVID-19 vaccines, human rights activists and defence information.

Security (Cyber) // BLUF: The United States has indicted two Chinese nationals connected to a long-running hacking operation, that the US claims was done for the benefit of the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS).

Information targeted during the hacking operations included that of COVID-19 vaccine data, political dissidents, human rights advocates, more than a dozen US defence contractors, a Korean ship building company and an Australian defence contractor.

(See Point 4 Below for Further Information)

The Daily Quick-Look for 22 July 2020

The Deciport Daily Quick-Look is your at-a-glance look at several key events and situations around the world over the last 24 hours. Each headline contains the link to its source report.

BLUF = Bottom Line Up Front.

FYSA = For Your Situational Awareness.

1. UNITED STATES, CHINA - Security/Political: U.S. wants to build coalition to counter China's 'disgraceful' menace, Pompeo says

FYSA: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday the United States wants to build a global coalition to counter China as he accused Beijing of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to further its own interests. U.S. President Donald Trump identifies China as the United States’ main rival, and has accused President Xi Jinping of taking advantage over trade and not telling the truth over the novel coronavirus outbreak, which Trump calls the “China plague”. (Reuters. See link in heading for further reading)

2. ZIMBABWE - Security/Political: Zimbabwe tightens COVID rules ahead of anti-government protests

FYSA: Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Tuesday his government would impose a night-time curfew and tighten other measures to tackle rising coronavirus infections, adding that anyone who challenged the rules faced severe punishment. Critics and the opposition said the new steps were linked to anti-government protests planned for next week. On Monday police arrested an opposition official and a journalist, accusing them of inciting violence ahead of July 31 demonstrations by activists who say government corruption has exacerbated economic hardship. “As of tomorrow, Wednesday, ... all our security services must enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew set to come into force daily between 1800 hours and 0600 hours,” Mnangagwa said in a televised address to the nation. He said anyone who encouraged actions that undermine the government’s measures “will be liable and severely punished accordingly”. (Reuters. See link in heading for further reading)

3. UKRAINE - Security: Ukraine hostage crisis: Lutsk siege ends after president's bizarre video

FYSA: A stand-off in Ukraine has ended with security forces freeing 10 hostages from a bus in the city of Lutsk and detaining the gunman, after a bizarre intervention by the president. Pictures showed the gunman lying on the ground after his arrest. Just before the man's arrest, President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a short video to comply with one of his demands, saying the words: "Everyone should watch the 2005 film Earthlings." All the hostages are unharmed. The man has been named by police as Maksym Kryvosh, 44, who has previous convictions. He had originally been holding 13 people but released three after talks with Mr Zelensky. "Lutsk. Everyone is okay," Interior Minister Arsen Avakov tweeted (in Russian) following the end of the siege. (BBC. See link in heading for further reading)

4. CHINA, UNITED STATES - Political/Security (Cyber): US indicts Chinese hackers on charges of targeting coronavirus vaccine data and defence secrets

FYSA: The US government has indicted two Chinese nationals in connection with long-running cyber espionage operations that aimed to net information on Covid-19 vaccines, military weapons and human rights activists, in what is the second Justice Department indictment against individuals from China in recent days. Li Xiaoyu, 34, and Dong Jiazhi, 33, were charged with 11 counts of conspiracy, identity theft and fraud related to operations carried out from China since 2009, some in conjunction with China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS), according to an indictment filed on July 7 with the US District Court for the Eastern District of Washington and unsealed on Tuesday. Li and Dong’s victims include the US Department of Energy and more than a dozen US defence contractors, pharmaceutical companies and software firms, according to the document, which did not identify any of the companies. Non-US companies named as the defendants’ victims include a South Korean shipbuilding and engineering firm, an Australian defence contractor and two German software ventures. (SCMP. See link in heading for further reading)

5. AUSTRALIA - Security (Health): More than 200 people meant to be isolating under strict coronavirus quarantine laws are missing in Queensland

FYSA: More than 200 people who were meant to be isolating at home under strict coronavirus quarantine laws in Queensland are missing. Since mid-April more than 2,000 compliance checks have been conducted by the COVID-19 taskforce, with officers uncovering almost 400 people were not where they were supposed to be. Of those flouting the rules, 185 had given health officials false contact details, including addresses where they were alleged to have been isolating at. Another 25 people had given authorities the correct information but when police visited they were nowhere to be found. Police said 210 people remained unaccounted for and were wanted for questioning. If found, they are likely to face hefty fines for breaking the stringent stay-at-home laws in place to curb the spread of the virus. (ABC. See link in heading for further reading)

6. NEW ZEALAND - Economic: Travel agent forced to remortgage house to keep doors open, help clients

FYSA: Travel agent Stephanie Mitchell is caught in an impossible position and says she and her industry need urgent Government help. Her clients need her to remain in business to help them access their refunds for trips cancelled because of Covid-19. These can take months for airlines and tourism operators offshore to process. But at the same time, that time-consuming work provides no income. Once the second round of the wage subsidy runs out, there would be no money coming in to keep the doors of most travel agents’ businesses open, she said. She has taken out a mortgage on her home and is falling further behind financially each week. “We have no income but we are required to continue the work, we’re running but we don’t know how to get off. We can’t stop doing what we are doing but we have no money to carry on.” She said all of her staff were being paid out of her new mortgage debt, as well as the business’s insurance and rates. (Stuff. See link in heading for further reading)

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