Stable communication; Chinese threat group’s finds shade under dark web!

chinese threat

As per the reports from China, the pro-democratic activists in China has ‘fled to digital underground’ as the authorities spread the surveillance powers to trap them.

The people who opposes the official policies in the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) were found to be using dark web forums and encrypted messaging apps to escape the digital surveillance by authorities, sanctioned by a new controversial National security law, according to the reports by threat intel firm insights.

The legislative law passed in June 2020 grants power to the enforcement agencies to perform warrantless searches and convert surveillance, block travel documents, remove the contents posted by the online service providers.

The law almost detained 50 pro-democracy activists in January and blocked their access to anti-government websites as they violated anti-doxxing legislation.

As per Intsights, around 13 overseas U.K based websites that were claimed to be dark web were blocked by the Hong Kong government and a pro-China counter post blamed defective servers for this incident.

Last year, nearly 170,000 accounts were removed in Twitter, which was believed to be a part of ‘manipulated & coordinated’ campaign that spread misinformation about the pro-democracy protests. This happening has convulsed the SAR for the past two years.

APTs and malware attacks

Backed by the Chinese government, the APT threat groups targeted the citizens of Hong Kong, news media and universities which posed an ultimatum to the “unity” in the malware campaigns since 2014.

‘Lightspy’, an iOS optimized malware strain which evolved in 2020 allowed the attackers to ex filter infected devices contact lists, call history and geographical locations. 

Parallely, an Android version called ‘dmSpy’ spread throughout Telegram and Instagram with malicious content that downloaded an app dedicated to the Hong Kong democracy and freedom movement.

Another cyber-attack campaign strengthened MGbot malware linked to the APT groups ‘Evasive Panda’ and included a private message from the U.K Prime Minister Boris Johnson inviting Hong Kong citizens to emigrate to Britain.

Exploring the darkness of dark web

Increasing number of troublesome activists pays their hand-out to use dark web services to safely communicate with each other, share information, discuss politics and know the whereabouts of the modern secure apps through various applications available in dark web.

Despite of taking such risks, some pro-democracy netizens are using Chinese language dark web forums powered by pro-China to criticize the government and authorities.

Moreover, the unethical happening occurring in the dark web which includes selling stolen data, credit card skimmers and recreational drugs threaten the politically motivated users to perform cyber-criminal activities.

Methods used

Activists are behind multiple messaging and communication apps to escape surveillance.

They include Telegram, which was claimed to have hit by a DDoS attack originated from China in 2019 and Signal, whose popularity has hyped according to Intsight researchers in response to the updated privacy policies of Whatsapp.

The rebels also use Apple’s Bluetooth powered Airdrop feature to bond with allies and organize allies. The latest version of iPhones proves to be the safest bet for the dissidents.

According to the Intsight researchers, the Hong Kong police officers is unable to crack new Apple  iPhone models locally despite finding new ways to compromise Android devices and access Google drive files.

Bluetooth is providing an effective platform by helping the activists to communicate offline and of its innovative ways to use mesh networks.

However, Professor Alan Woodward, a computer security expert at Surrey University has found that the authorities could still seize the communications.

“With an effective end-to-end network and an expert team, you can still monitor which device is talking to which device and the data extracted from this could point out the people involved”, says Professor Alan Woodward to the BBC in 2019.

Nowadays, application such as Zoom which is used for video calling purposes has also become a powerful platform for eavesdropping government agencies as Universities seminars and projects migrated online due to Covid-19 pandemic.


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