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.
Huang, who used to work as a senior consultant at the Taiwan Information Security Center and a research engineer at the Institute of Information Science at Academia Sinica, gave a version of the talk at a small conference in Taipei in 2007.
As the world’s top security conference, Black Hat would have brought the message to a far larger audience, especially as attendees would have been allowed to record it, something that was prohibited in Taiwan.
A former National Security Council official last week told the Taipei Times that Taiwan served as a “testing ground” for professional Chinese hackers, adding that only after an attack had successfully penetrated Taiwanese systems would China use the same techniques to try to infiltrate other targets.
Taiwan has developed a unique expertise in protecting against and identifying Chinese cyber attacks, skills that have been recognized by several countries, the official said.
The official said Taiwanese intelligence had established that China had about 300,000 professional hackers employed by the government, focusing on an estimated 10,000 “priority” targets in Taiwan, which include both government agencies and the private sector.
Commenting on Huang’s talk in 2007, White Hat Security chief technology officer Jeremiah Grossman said Taiwan’s cyber crime environment was “way more serious than anything I’ve ever been exposed to in the US or elsewhere,” IDG wrote.
ANTI-SHIP CONFIGURATION: The Tuo Chiang-class vessels are to be built for NT$9.7 billion by Lung Teh, a shipyard that previously built four similar corvettes for the navy The Ministry of National Defense on Wednesday awarded Lung Teh Shipbuilding (龍德造船) a NT$9.7 billion Co (US$317.57 million) contract to build five Tuo Chiang-class corvettes with anti-ship capabilities, a defense official familiar with the matter said yesterday. The corvettes would carry vertical launchers for four Hsiung Feng II (HF-2) missiles, as well as eight Hsiung Feng III (HF-3) anti-ship missiles, in contrast to ships configured for anti-air warfare, which carry eight HF-2 and four HF-3 missiles, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The anti-ship corvettes would be armed for improved standoff range against surface combatants and carry the latest
PARTIAL SUPPORT: Morris Chang said he agrees with the US’ goal to slow advances of China’s chip sector, but US policies that might boost chip prices perplex him Washington’s efforts to on-shore semiconductor production might lead to surges in chip prices and supply bottlenecks, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) founder Morris Chang (張忠謀) said yesterday. The 91-year-old industry veteran said he supports parts of Washington’s effort to slow China’s progress on advanced chip manufacturing. China is still six years behind Taiwan in making advanced chips, despite years-long efforts to catch up, Chang told a Commonwealth Magazine forum that he coheadlined with Tufts University assistant professor Chris Miller, an expert on the US-China rivalry’s effects on chip manufacturing. However, Chang said that other parts of the effort, particularly Washington’s on-shoring
‘COINCIDENCE’: The former president should keep in mind local and global response to his actions and abide by the law to safeguard national interests, the MAC said The Presidential Office yesterday confirmed that it has received an application from former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to visit China next week and would be discussing his security detail. “As the travel restrictions on former president Ma have expired, we respect his plan to pay respect to his ancestors in China,” Presidential Office spokeswoman Lin Yu-chan (林聿禪) said. “We will review his travel plan and consult concerned agencies to assist him in arranging his security detail.” “We also hope that Ma, as a former commander in chief of Taiwan, acts in a manner that aligns with national interests and does not hurt
‘WRONG DECISION’: Honduras should carefully consider the situation, and not fall into China’s trap and jeopardize the bilateral friendship, the foreign ministry said The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said that it had expressed “grave concern” to the government of Honduras after Honduran President Xiomara Castro on Tuesday wrote on Twitter that it would pursue official diplomatic relations with China. In addition to issuing a statement, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Yui (俞大㵢) summoned Honduran Ambassador to Taiwan Harold Burgos to the ministry in Taipei early yesterday to voice the government’s concerns. The meeting lasted about 20 minutes and Burgos did not make any public comments upon arriving at the ministry. Burgos said shortly after noon that he had not yet heard from his country’s