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.
LAND ALERT UNCERTAIN: The CWB was waiting to observe how In-Fa shifts as it moves north to determine when to issue a land alert, a forecaster at the bureau said Residents of northern Taiwan should brace for heavy rain today and tomorrow as Typhoon In-Fa approaches the northeast, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said yesterday. A land alert for the typhoon would be issued depending on the angle at which it moves north today, the bureau said. The bureau on Wednesday issued a sea alert for the typhoon, which applies to ships operating off the nation’s northern, northeastern and southeastern coasts. As of 8:30pm yesterday, In-Fa’s center was 470km southeast of Taipei, moving northwest at 6kph. It was carrying maximum sustained winds of 180kph, and had a radius of 200km. The typhoon was moving
‘BREAKTHROUGH’: All countries should be free to pursue closer ties with Taiwan, a leading democracy, a major economy, and a force for good in the world, the AIT said Taiwan is to establish a “Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania,” the first office in Europe to be called Taiwanese, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced yesterday. “It is an important diplomatic breakthrough,” President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) wrote on Facebook, thanking diplomatic personnel for the significant achievement. To expand the nation’s relations with central and eastern Europe, especially with Baltic nations, the government decided to establish the office in Vilnius, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) told an online news conference. The plan signals progress in Taiwan-Europe relations, as it has been 18 years since the nation last opened an office on the
TARGET RAISED: The CECC said vaccination coverage has reached 24.35%, while Premier Su Tseng-chang said the government hopes for 30% by the end of July The government has signed a contract to buy an additional 36 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, 1 million of which are to be delivered in the fourth quarter, the Executive Yuan announced yesterday, as it updated its vaccination target to 30 percent coverage by the end of the month. The two-year deal with the US company covers “prime series” vaccines and future booster shots to protect against SARS-CoV-2 variants, Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) quoted Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) as saying during an Executive Yuan meeting in Taipei. In the two weeks since vaccine registration opened, more than 9.8
STAY VIGILANT: Although a level 2 alert would raise the limit on indoor gatherings to 50, people should still wear masks and practice social distancing, the center said A nationwide COVID-19 alert is to be lowered from level 3 to 2 on Tuesday, but strict border controls would remain, the government said yesterday. The level 3 alert in place since May 19 is to end on Monday, with a level 2 alert in place from Tuesday until Aug. 9, the Executive Yuan said. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), told a news conference in Taipei that over the next two weeks, people should still wear masks at all times outdoors, except while eating or drinking, and practice social distancing. The maximum