has issued a warning saying that China and
are posing an increased digital threat. In a report “Sophistication, scope, and scale: Digital threats from East Asia increase in breadth and effectiveness” by
Microsoft Threat Analysis Center
(MTAC), the company talks about the heightened risk to specific sectors and regions.
China using AI to influence US voters
Microsoft report said that, in the past year, China-affiliated actors ran campaigns wherein AI-generated images were being used to influence operations meant to mimic US voters.
It says that these images are most likely created by diffusion-powered image generators that “use AI to create compelling images and also learn to improve them over time.”
“We have observed China-affiliated actors leveraging AI-generated visual media in a broad campaign that largely focuses on politically divisive topics, such as gun violence, and denigrating US political figures and symbols. This technology produces more eye-catching content than the awkward digital drawings and stock photo collages used in previous campaigns. We can expect China to continue to hone this technology over time, though it remains to be seen how and when it will deploy it at scale,” Microsoft said.
Cyberattacks in South China region
The report also noted that multiple Chinese state-affiliated threat actors have focused cyberattacks in the South China Sea region with an aim to collect intelligence and execute malware against regional governments and industries.
Furthermore, they have targeted the US defence industry and infrastructure to look for competitive advantages to bolster strategic military aims.
Earlier this year, a China-based threat actor Storm-0558 accessed Microsoft customer email accounts of approximately 25 organisations including US and European government entities. The company assessed that it was likely conducted for espionage purposes. Microsoft successfully blocked this campaign.
The report also notes that with upcoming elections in 2024, Taiwan and the US are likely to remain top priorities for China.
North Korea a capable cyber threat
Microsoft says that apart from China, North Korea is also focusing on intelligence gathering and the theft of cryptocurrency needed to generate revenue for the state. It says that several threat actors have targeted the maritime and shipbuilding sectors, which could imply that these could be the high-priority areas for the North Korean government.
North Korean threat actors have also targeted the Russian government and defence industry likely for intelligence collection.