(TargetLiberty.org) – Hackers from a clandestine organization that managed to infiltrate Microsoft’s servers may have been after more than just financial gain, according to a new report. The explosive expose, first published by NPR on August 26, suggests a far darker motivation — one that stands to threaten America’s security on a national level.
The Hair-Raising Details
Cybersecurity experts on US soil have said for some time that Chinese hackers regularly infiltrate and steal data from US-originating servers. They say they often target government agencies, universities, and medical facilities, yet regularly target seemingly “inconsequential” entities, such as mom and pop shops, too.
In the case of the attack on Microsoft’s Exchange platform, hackers from a Chinese group known as HAFNIUM allegedly tricked its servers into believing requests to access private data were legitimate. This essentially granted the CCP-associated group a free pass to view, and steal, terabytes of information without raising any red flags.
But this wasn’t just another run-of-the-mill hack. While the way HAFNIUM accessed the data is unusual, it’s what enabled it to infiltrate the servers in the first place that has many experts concerned. The group reportedly managed to compile email addresses and information from thousands of different businesses located on US soil.
Microsoft VP Tom Burt thinks that’s very strange. He points out that this kind of data is rarely accessible to the public. So, how did a hacker group associated with China’s government manage to gain access to it in the first place?
Vacuuming Up Data for Future Use
Former National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina has a theory about what might be driving the Chinese government’s repeated attacks. He calls the CCP “Shop-Vac-oriented” and more interested in the sheer volume of data they can access than the quality of the same.
The intelligence expert has serious concerns about why they might want access to so much data, painting a picture of what a Chinese data set might look like.
“So you have the OPM data breach… an entire security clearance file… Anthem records… his Marriott point record, credit cards, Equifax, his loans, his mortgages, his credit score,” he says. “They know everything about you.”
The fact that experts believe China has such a file on up to 80% of all American citizens is scary enough in its own right. But think for a moment about how a foreign intelligence agency might use that mountain of data in other ways.
Set direct spying aside for a moment.
According to NPR, An agent might use it to convince someone right here on home soil that they’re trustworthy. Or, they might wield it as a tool of manipulation instead. Or, they could use the data to build extremely advanced artificial intelligence (AI) — one that might be capable of virtually anything.
China Races to Build New Technology
Some analysts investigating the Exchange hack believe hackers might be stealing data to feed it into China’s ongoing project to create a new, “next-generation” AI. The CCP did announce it would prioritize such endeavors back in 2017, vowing to remain ahead of the pack in what it saw as a highly competitive market.
But where, exactly, do such high volumes of data come in?
Essentially, AI learns by processing information. The more diverse the data it processes, the more powerful and capable it becomes. Ethical developers normally source this type of information with permission or by paying people for their contributions. According to reports, China’s clandestine teams more or less empower them to steal the same benefits for free.
Even here on US soil, AI plays a tremendously important role in our lives. More rudimentary versions are already present in the apps we use, the social media platforms we chat and share on, and even the bank software that allows us to make transactions from home.
If the CCP maintains ownership of the most advanced AI in the world — one capable of creating and programming other AIs — it could essentially manipulate the entire future of the technology. They could more or less engineer its capabilities in whatever way they see fit to serve their own interests. That’s a scary thought when you consider their propensity for seizing assets wherever they can in an effort to extend their own global reach.
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