Stay up to date with the latest OSINT news from around the world.
This week’s open-source intelligence (OSINT) news from around the world includes a look at the proliferation of doxing on Telegram, a tool dedicated to anti-censorship and a report proposing the intelligence community (IC) prioritize understanding the spread of disinformation and foreign influence in the U.S.
There are also two new articles on China this week. The growing concern over China’s space focus and satellite ground station locations around the world, and Taiwan’s new digital defense techniques in preparation for a potential invasion by the PLA.
This is the OSINT news you need to know this week:
Public channel virality lends itself to doxing attacks
The messaging service and social media platform Telegram has come under fire for slack moderation and a lacking response to a persistent issue of doxing, the act of publishing the private information of an individual online with malicious intent. Influencers, such as pro-coup Han Nyein Oo in Myanmar, have used public channels to crowdsource opponents’ information to have them doxxed. The end-to-end encryption messaging service is used by 700 million people worldwide. Channels with tens of thousands of followers are easily used to blast private information, including on dissidents in authoritarian regimes the app purports to cater to.
Both pro-Ukrainians and pro-Russian counterparts use the tool. An active Russian doxing operation called Project Nemesis regularly publishes the personal information of Ukrainian soldiers. Sometimes the doxed information is cross-posted to violent vigilante groups. Activists in Myanmar say they have not received a response from Telegram about their complaints.
“WIRED spoke to activists and experts in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe who said that the platform has ignored their warnings about an epidemic of politically motivated doxing, allowing dangerous content to proliferate, leading to intimidation, violence, and deaths.”Peter Guest, Wired
Preparing for possible cyber war in Taiwan
Taiwan is preparing their digital defenses in anticipation of a potential Chinese invasion. Kuma Academy, a nonprofit civil defense organization in the country, will provide civilian training, which will include courses on identifying and debunking online disinformation and OSINT. A prominent Taiwanese tech tycoon is supporting the cause by pledging $20 million of his own money to the organization.
The training will be provided for three million people over the next three years. Foreign hacking groups are operating on the island, says one of the Academy’s co-founders, but few people are using OSINT to counter and defend against these attacks. The preparation is, in part, a reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the increased importance of cyber warfare in both the invasion and defense efforts.
“"War is, at its most basic nature, a contest of wills," Ho said. "The two sides use a variety of methods to try to force the other to obey its will. Armed conflict is only one form of modern warfare."”Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, Axios
Prioritizing analysis of foreign influence
The National Intelligence Priorities Framework (NIPF) helps U.S. intelligence agencies prioritize their wealth of information and analysis in order to have an effective impact on national security. The priorities have shifted with time, from Cold War-era to the War on Terror in the early 2000’s. The Atlantic Council suggests the most pressing current priority should be combating disinformation, propaganda and manipulation of the political process.
The goals outlined by the proposal include identifying the strategic goals of adversaries, their targets, the objectives of influence, the fiscal allocation, if foreign governments or non-governmental organizations are involved, the tactics used and how successful the campaign was. As foreign influence becomes more commonplace in the digital age, an effective response is needed to advance U.S. foreign policy.
“Establishing a multi-agency task force of experts could be a viable first step: It would act as a manager tasking intelligence collection to better understand foreign influence operations; as a consumer of the newly gathered intelligence; and as an analyst producing formal reports for policymakers, as well as educational pieces for the US public to understand what it is seeing and hearing in the media, within social movements, and across politics.”Gerard DiPippo, Center for Strategic & International Studies
China's "space power"
China has its “eyes on the skies” according to a recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Using publicly available satellite imagery, CSIS assesses China has expanded the number of ground stations in South America in order to track satellites in Earth’s orbit. While the stations are purported to be civilian Chinese space assets, President Xi Jinping’s ambition to become a leading “space power” concerns some U.S. intelligence officials because of the oversight China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has on the China National Space Administration. The global network of stations worries some in the U.S. that believe they could be used to spy on U.S. assets or intercept messages.
One site in Argentina, which China has leased since 2012, has drawn criticism for the lack of oversight from the Argentine government. The suspicion that the station may be being used for military activity is heightened by the fact that PLA personnel staffed the facility. In 2019, Sweden found that China had violated the terms of its contract at another ground station in Chile and chose not to renew.
“As the PLA extends its reach farther from China’s shores, it will need a robust suite of space capabilities to assist with intelligence gathering, situational awareness, and more. Ground stations can be called on to support all these needs.”Matthew P. Funaiole, et. al., Hidden Reach
Subverting censorship in the digital age
An organization has found an effective and so far reliable way to bypass Russian internet restrictions to provide access to banned news sites. Samizdat Online automatically syndicates the news articles of banned news sites on unblocked domain URLs in order to avoid DNS blocking commonly employed by Russia and other authoritarian countries. Over a dozen news sites have given the organization permission to syndicate their articles in order to reach readers in countries where the traditional domains are blocked.
Each time the site of a news outlet is accessed, it will show up as a different domain. A server generates non-affiliated domains, and then a series of independent servers register and host them. They are randomized to help dodge censorship. The beauty of the program is it requires little tech know-how or setup.
“Unlike other anti-censorship tools, such as VPNs or Tor, this doesn’t require any tech knowledge or software downloads. It is as simple as clicking a link and sharing it with friends.”Matt Burgess, Wired
Every other week, we collect OSINT news from around the world. We continue to keep a close watch on Russia's war in Ukraine, especially on Twitter. We’re also gathering information on cyberthreats, federal intelligence strategies and much more. Find us on Twitter and share the OSINT news you’re keeping up with.
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