Let’s begin here: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, June 21, 2018
Defendant allegedly illegally exported devices used to detect and monitor sound underwater

BOSTON – A Chinese national was arrested today and charged in connection with violating export laws by conspiring with employees of an entity affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to illegally export U.S. origin goods to China, as well as making false statements to obtain a visa to enter the United States and to become a lawful permanent resident under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program.

Shuren Qin, 41, a Chinese national residing in Wellesley, Mass., was charged in a criminal complaint with one count of visa fraud and one count of conspiring to commit violations of U.S. export regulations. Qin was arrested today and will appear in federal court in Boston on June 22, 2018.

According to charging documents, Qin was born in the People’s Republic of China and became a lawful permanent resident of the United States in 2014. Qin operates several companies in China, which purport to import U.S. and European goods with applications in underwater or marine technologies into China.  It is alleged that Qin was in communication with and/or receiving taskings from entities affiliated with the PLA, including the Northwestern Polytechnical University (NWPU), a Chinese military research institute, to obtain items used for anti-submarine warfare. (..)

LCS Mission Packages: The Basics - USNI Newsphoto

Okay, how about this one?

The submarine contractor breach, recently reported by the Washington Post, reflects this intense focus on bridging any technological advantage the US may have. It involved attacks in January and February that nabbed important data, albeit from an unclassified network. When taken together, though, the information would have amounted to a valuable snapshot of US cutting edge underwater weapons development, plus details on a number of related digital and mechanical systems.

The attack fits into a known pattern of Chinese hacking initiatives. “China will continue to use cyberespionage and bolster cyberattack capabilities to support [its] national security priorities,” US director of national intelligence Daniel Coats wrote in a February threat report. “The [Intelligence Community] and private-sector security experts continue to identify ongoing cyberactivity from China…Most detected Chinese cyberoperations against US private industry are focused on cleared defense contractors or IT and communications firms.”

This week, analysts from Symantec also published research on a series of attacks in the same category from November 2017 to April from a hacking group dubbed Thrip. Though Symantec does not go so far as to identify Thrip as Chinese state-sponsored hackers, it reports “with high confidence” that Thrip attacks trace back to computers inside the country. The group, which Symantec has tracked since 2013, has evolved to hide in plain site by mostly using prefab malware to infiltrate networks and then manipulating administrative controls and other legitimate system tools to bore deeper without setting off alarms. All of these off-the-shelf hacking tools and techniques have made Thrip harder to identify and track—which is likely the idea—but Symantec started to notice patterns in their anomaly detection scanners that ultimately gave these attacks away, and led the researchers to a unique backdoor that implicated Thrip.

The researchers found evidence of intrusions at some southeast Asian telecom firms, a US geospatial imagery company, a couple of private satellite companies including one from the US, and a US defense contractor. The breaches were all deliberate and targeted, and in the case of the satellite firms the hackers moved all the way through to reach the control systems of actual orbiting satellites, where they could have impacted a satellite’s trajectory or disrupted data flow. More here from Wired.

As if that is not enough to begin charging China, how about this?

U.S. military pilots flying aircraft over the East China Sea have been targeted by blinding laser attacks more than 20 times over the last 10 months, U.S. officials told The Japan Times, after a number of similar attacks in East Africa that the Pentagon has said Chinese military personnel were behind.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the attacks in the waterway, where the Chinese military has bolstered its operations, were first reported last September. The incidents were believed to have come from a range of sources, “both ashore and from fishing vessels,” spokeswoman Maj. Cassandra Gesecki said.

Indo-Pacific Command said it would not go into specifics about the incidents, but media reports quoting unidentified U.S. officials said some of the fishing boats were Chinese-flagged vessels. Officials wouldn’t definitively confirm that Chinese personnel were behind all of the incidents.

Beijing operates a “maritime militia” of Chinese fishing boats, which it trains and subsidizes with sophisticated gear such as GPS equipment. Such vessels have played an important role in China asserting its various territorial claims in the East and South China Seas.

Chinese personnel at the country’s first overseas military base in Djibouti had been using lasers to interfere with U.S. military aircraft at a nearby American base, activity that has resulted in injuries to U.S. pilots and prompted the U.S. to launch a formal diplomatic protest with Beijing.

However, unlike the Djibouti incidents, where military-grade lasers had been employed in some cases, the East China Sea incidents involved smaller, commercial-grade laser pointers popularly known as “cat grade” lasers because pet owners have known to use to play with their animals. Even so, these types of lasers have been known to temporarily blind pilots and, in some cases, cause eye damage.

“In light of these recent incidents, units operating in the area are conducting an assessment of their laser eye protection equipment,” Gesecki said.

While Chinese fishing vessels have long operated in the East China Sea, the country’s military has embarked on a military modernization program heavily promoted by President Xi Jinping, who has overseen a shift in focus toward creating a more potent fighting force. This has included projects such as building a second aircraft carrier, integrating stealth fighters into the air force and fielding an array of advanced missiles that can strike air and sea targets from long distances.

In a demonstration of its continued push to refine its power-projection capabilities and push further into the Western Pacific Ocean, the Chinese military in April conducted drills in the Pacific with its sole operating aircraft carrier.

The East China Sea is home to a long-running dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands, which are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China, which calls them the Diaoyu. Japanese defense chief Itsunori Onodera said in April that Chinese activity — including naval and coast guard patrols in the waters — “has expanded and accelerated” in recent years as it seeks to assert its territorial claims.

But the activity goes beyond military.

Beijing has also used its maritime militia to hassle Japanese fishermen and the Japan Coast Guard in a bid to better enforce its claims in the East China Sea, experts say.

If the Chinese military is not directly involved in the laser incidents, it could be directing — at some level — the maritime militia to target U.S. pilots.

Although the U.S. has not taking a position on the sovereignty of the Senkakus, it has repeatedly said that they fall under its treaty obligations to defend Japan’s territory if it is attacked.

In closing, remember:

On May 23, the US State Department announced that one embassy worker in Guangzhou experienced “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure” before being diagnosed with symptoms similar to those found in the diplomatic personnel that were in Cuba, including mild traumatic brain injury.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that at least two more Americans in Guangzhou have experienced similar phenomena and also fallen ill. One of those embassy workers told the Times that he and his wife had heard mysterious sounds and experienced strange headaches and sleeplessness while in their apartment.

After the evacuation of the first diplomatic employee from Guangzhou was announced, the State Department issued a health alert via the US Consulate in Guangzhou telling people that “if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source. Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present.”

On June 5, the office of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the establishment of a task force meant to respond to these mysterious incidents, which some have called “sonic attacks.” More here.

Denise Simon