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Chinese authorities arrest four in ransomware case involving ChatGPT | #ransomware | #cybercrime


Four alleged cyber attackers have been arrested in mainland China for developing ransomware with the help of ChatGPT, the first case of its sort in the country.

The South China Morning Post reports that the suspects were arrested in November following a ransomware attack on an unidentified company in Zhenjiang Province, just south of Shanghai. The ransomware attack is said to have blocked the company’s systems with a ransom of 20,000 Tether ($20,000) demanded to restore access.

Upon arrest, the four accused admitted to “writing versions of ransomware, optimizing the program with the help of ChatGPT, conducting vulnerability scans, gaining access through infiltration, implanting ransomware and carrying out extortion.”

ChatGPT is notably banned in China, where it is blocked by the country’s firewall and censorship regime due to its ability to discuss verboten topics in China. The country has at various times announced crackdowns on citizens trying to access the service, but access is only a virtual private network away, be it the government tries to block VPNs as well.

The SCMP does note that it’s not clear whether the accused were charged over illegally accessing ChatGPT. In a separate report, China’s Global Times says that four accused possessed qualifications related to network security and had previous experience working for large-scale internet technology companies; the suggestion is that ChatGPT was simply used as a tool as part of the ransomware operation versus being key to the attack.

The arrests are not the first time ChatGPT has been involved in an arrest in China. A man arrested in Gansu Province in May allegedly generated a fake story about a train crash using ChatGPT.

The fake story alleged that nine construction workers in a city in Gansu had been killed in a train crash, with the story spreading across 25 social media accounts before being intercepted by China’s censorship regime. The man was arrested for concocting false information.

Chinese companies are notably developing homegrown rivals to ChatGPT. The most notable among them is Baidu Inc., the Google of China, which disclosed last week that its Ernie Bot service, first revealed in March, has now surpassed over 100 million users.

Image: DALL-E 3

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