On Wednesday, security researchers from Google and cybersecurity firm Mandiant announced that a network of fake pro-Chinese social media accounts had attempted to mobilize Americans to participate in anti-racism protests in response to the coronavirus pandemic. According to a report the two organizations released, the network “appeared to be unsuccessful,” but in one case it attempted to get Asian Americans to participate in a protest on April 24 in a Chinese laboratory being developed.
They did not directly attribute the campaign to the Chinese government. However, John Hultquist, vice president of analysis at Mandiant, told the Wall Street Journal that the operation was “almost certainly supported by a government sponsor, either directly through a government agency or a third-party provider.” In addition, the scale of the campaign suggests that the network had significant resources.
Researchers say the campaign may suggest an intent to motivate action in the real world outside of China’s borders. At least the scope of the activities is much broader than the previous efforts of this network. In 2019 it was tied to efforts to discredit the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
This time around, they didn’t limit their efforts to just Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Instead, they cast a wide web, creating accounts on more than 30 social media platforms and 40 additional websites and “niche” forums, including places like LiveJournal and Vimeo. They also tried to reach a global audience by publishing in Russian, German, Spanish, Korean, and Japanese in addition to Chinese and English.
“Over the past two years we’ve seen this threat actor evolve, from the types of content they post to the tactics they use to reinforce it, but the key characteristics of this network remain his Greatness and durability, although small. ” Engagements, “Shane Huntley, director of Google’s Threat Analysis Group, told Engadget.” … We anticipate that they will continue to experiment to get more engagement and encourage others in the community to use this actor continue to prosecute and shed light on and take action against their operations. “
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