Wed, Jul 21, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Speakers nix PRC cyber warfare talk under pressure

By J. Michael Cole  /  STAFF REPORTER

Experts at a private Taiwanese security company decided to pull out of a security conference in Las Vegas after coming under what was described as pressure from Chinese and Taiwanese agencies.

Wayne Huang, chief technology officer and founder of Taiwanese security vendor Armorize Technologies, and Jack Yu, a researcher at the company, were scheduled to give a talk on Chinese cyber warfare capabilities at the Black Hat USA 2010 security conference, which will be held in Las Vegas on Wednesday and Thursday next week.

They said they decided to pull out last week after coming under pressure from several Chinese and Taiwanese agencies.

“The Chinese Cyber Army: An Archaeological Study from 2001 to 2010,” derived from information gathered from intelligence groups across Asia, had been advertised as an in-depth analysis of government-backed Chinese cyber espionage.

“Using facts, we will reconstruct the face of the Cyber Army, including who they are, where they are, who they target, what they want, what they do, their funding, objectives, organization, processes, active hours, tools and techniques,” the Black Hat Web site quoted the presenters as saying.

On Wednesday last week, Armorize chief executive officer Caleb Sima wrote on Twitter that the talk had been pulled because the “Taiwanese [government] is prohibiting it due to sensitive materials.”

Black Hat conference organizers yesterday confirmed to the Taipei Times that the talk had been cancelled, but refused to discuss the reasons why. IDG News, an IT news service, broke the story last week.

During a telephone interview with the Taipei Times yesterday, Huang said the decision to drop out of the conference came after he sought to vet his talk with the intelligence agencies on whose information the report was based.

“It was our choice to pull out. We felt that Black Hat wasn’t the best way to share that information,” he said, adding that other, more official “windows” were more appropriate.

“We didn’t want to draw too much attention by disclosing that information at such a prestigious venue,” he said, adding that Armorize wanted to keep good relations with the agencies involved and continue to be part of the community, something that could have been jeopardized had the information been publicized at Black Hat.

On whether the apprehensions expressed by the various agencies stemmed from concerns over what the talk would reveal about the level of Chinese cyber espionage or the company’s sources and means of collection, Huang said “both.”

He said that from the perspective of the private sector, it was difficult to tell whether the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s efforts to foster closer ties with Beijing had resulted in more pressure to pull the talk.

Asked to confirm if the agencies were governmental, he said the report drew from “multiple sources,” including military, security, intelligence, law enforcement and the private sector.

“We can’t really say who owns the intelligence,” Huang said. “It’s not the raw data that matters, it’s how you spend time analyzing the raw data over 10 years to draw conclusions.”

Santa Clara, California-based Armorize was incorporated in 2006. The company’s R&D center is located in the Nangang Software Park in Taipei.

Although talks have been pulled from the Black Hat conference before, it usually resulted from pressure by the private sector threatening to sue the presenters.

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