Taiwanese infosec researchers challenge Microsoft's China espionage finding

PLUS: India calls for global action on AI and crypto; Vietnam seeks cybersecurity independence; China bans AI prescribing drugs

Asia In Brief Taiwan-based infosec consultancy Team T5 has disputed Microsoft's alleged timeline of just when a Beijing-linked attack group named Flax Typhoon commenced its campaigns.

Microsoft last week asserted that Flax Typhoon gains and maintains long-term access to Taiwanese targets without heavy reliance on malware. Instead, the group uses tools built into the operating system combined with "normally benign software" that help the infiltration stay undetected.

"Flax Typhoon achieves initial access by exploiting known vulnerabilities in public-facing servers," said Microsoft. "The services targeted vary, but include VPN, web, Java, and SQL applications. The payload in these exploits is a web shell, such as China Chopper, which allows for remote code execution on the compromised server."

Microsoft said the threat actor's behavior suggests espionage and attempts to maintain access. They also pin the cyber gang's activity as beginning mid-2021.

However, Taiwanese threat intelligence group TeamT5 told The Register it had tracked the group's activity since at least 2020 and had given it the temporary code name SLIME13.

Team T5 chief analyst Charles Li said the group had notified and assisted several victim entities – mostly Taiwanese universities and electronic companies – over the past two years.

Indian PM calls for global regulation of AI, crypto

India's prime minister Narendra Modi yesterday called for global regulations to govern cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence.

Speaking at the B20 summit – the business dialog that runs as part of the G20 summit – Modi identified both topics as emerging issues that were unimaginable 10 to 15 years in the past.

Without offering detail, the PM argued the issue of cryptocurrencies "requires a highly integrated approach. I believe a global framework needs to be established, considering the concerns of all stakeholders."

"An approach similar to this is also needed for Artificial Intelligence (AI)," he added.

"The world is currently brimming with excitement about AI, but within this excitement, there are ethical considerations as well. Concerns are being raised about skilling and re-skilling, algorithmic bias, and the societal impact of AI. We all need to come together to address these issues."

Modi said the business community and governments "must collaborate to ensure the expansion of Ethical AI.

"We must analyze potential disruptions in different sectors. Disruption is becoming more profound, pervasive, and significant with every instance. This challenge requires a solution under a global framework."

Modi cited the development of global regulations governing the aviation and financial sectors as precedents for efforts to write the rules of crypto and AI.

– Simon Sharwood

Vietnam wants infosec independence

Vietnam's prime minister Pham Minh Chinh last week called for major reforms to improve the nation's cyber security.

An announcement that followed the meeting of a cyber security steering committee saw the PM raise infosec to a top political priority, requiring mobilization of government and business to make improvements.

PM Chinh added calls for work to find the necessary resources to make the desired changes – including through public/private partnerships.

He also called for Vietnam to achieve self-reliance in protecting its own cyberspace.

Local media interpreted the PM's words as a call for Vietnam to develop indigenous infosec products.

– Simon Sharwood

Beijing to ban generative AI from writing prescriptions

Beijing plans to ban the use of AI for prescribing medical drugs, according to Chinese media.

The draft proposal, which is open for feedback until September 16, will require prescriptions be written by human physicians, sometimes in collaboration with human pharmacists.

US may extend exemptions to semicon sanctions

The US will extend a one-year exemption that allows South Korea and Taiwan based chipmakers to export advanced semiconductor manufacturing equipment and other technologies into China, according to Nikkei Asia.

The US's sanctions on China restrict the movement of certain semicon kit into or within China, but exemptions to those rules were offered to chipmakers such as South Korea's SK hynix, which was granted permission to send some stuff to the Middle Kingdom. South Korea lobbied hard for such exemptions, on grounds they hurt local companies.

The exemption was due to expire in October, but an extension has been expected since at least May.

Naver flatters Microsoft's Bing by imitating its AI

Naver, the South Korean tech giant often compared to Google, unveiled an update to its hyperscale AI model on Thursday.

The latest iteration of Naver's LLM, called HyperCLOVA X, includes a chatbot called CLOVA X and a Microsoft Bing-esque generative AI search engine called Cue. CLOVA X entered beta testing on Thursday, and Cue will follow suit in September.

Japan, ASEAN, in smartphone recycling pact

The Japanese government and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations last week agreed to reduce e-waste by reusing critical materials extracted from spent smartphones.

According to Nikkei Asia, Japan will establish rules for e-waste disposal, "including registration and certification systems for collection and dismantling businesses" and the environment ministry will include its costs in its FY 2024 budget request.

Toshiba helps Vanuatu to see the light

Japanese tech conglomerate Toshiba launched an LED lantern sharing service trial in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu last Tuesday.

The trial, which will end in September, involves renting solar charged LED lanterns to residents of Malampa, an area in Vanuatu that does not have access to power. The residents will use an app to manage loans and returns of the lanterns.

"Toshiba ESS has focused on sharing services for electric products charged by renewable energy and has been conducting needs assessments and demonstrations of electric product sharing services in Pacific Island countries since 2019," said Toshiba. "The company has now confirmed the need for and acceptance of the sharing service by residents in the Malampa Province of the Republic of Vanuatu, and has reached an agreement to conduct the Trial, based on the prospect of securing economic viability through the sharing service."

In other news …

India had some good news this past week, after the Chandrayaan-3 mission successfully touched down on the Moon, marking the subcontinental nation a serious player – indeed it's beaten US and Chinese missions to reach the satellite's south pole.

North Korea attempted yet another launch of what it claimed was a satellite, and yet again it failed – and its neighbors are getting a little tired of this.

In further news of North Korean naughtiness, the FBI warned that the hermit kingdom might be trying to offload a cache of stolen cryptocurrency.

Japan's Softbank is getting ready for the long-awaited public offering of Arm, but analysts are starting to wonder about the details.

For one thing, it turns out Arm is vulnerable to being locked out of China, which accounts for a significant chunk of its income.

Chinese battery maker CATL made a very bold claim about developing an EV power source that could cover 400km after just ten minutes of charging – but the numbers look contestable.

In other China news, Beijing is reportedly looking for ways to get around the trade restrictions that are choking its supplies of high tech as well as its export markets – some reports even accusing Huawei of building a covert network of chip fabs.

Incidentally, the Semiconductor Industry Association, whose presentation apparently sparked the "secret fabs" speculation, reckons the reporting got a little overheated and folks should chill.

Not that China hasn't been up to covert no-goodness, though – the FBI pointed to Beijing-backed snoops as culprits behind the hack of Barracuda Email Security appliances.

And South Korea's biggest telco has expressed its disappointment that 5G failed to deliver all the wonders promised before its debut. ®

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