Buried in a long US indictment accusing China of a global cyberespionage campaign was a curious detail: Among the governments targeted by Chinese hackers was Cambodia, one of Beijing’s most loyal Asian allies.
The target of the hack, which two sources with knowledge of the indictment said was the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, was also revealing: discussions between China and Cambodia over the use of the Mekong River, a new battleground for US and Chinese influence in Southeast Asia.
Four Chinese — three security officials and a contract hacker — have been charged for attacks aimed at dozens of companies, universities and government agencies in the US and elsewhere, the US Department of Justice said on Monday.
Reaction from the defendants named in the indictment was not immediately available.
The accusations, which China said were fabricated and politically motivated, were outlined in a 30-page US court indictment that described the activities as carried out by a front company run by Chinese state security in the country’s Hainan Province.
Among the hackers’ targets was “Cambodian Government Ministry A,” from which they “stole data pertaining to discussions between the Governments of China and Cambodia over the use of the Mekong River” in January 2018, the indictment said.
That ministry was the Cambodian foreign ministry, two sources with direct knowledge of the indictment told Reuters.
The 4,350km Mekong River, known as the Lancang in its upper reaches, flows from China along the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand through Cambodia and Vietnam, where it has supported farming and fishing communities for millennia.
Like the South China Sea, the Mekong has become a front in US-China rivalry, with Beijing overtaking Washington in spending and influence over downstream countries at the mercy of its control of the river’s waters.
The indictment said that Chinese hackers obtained data from the Cambodian foreign ministry on the same day Cambodia hosted a China-backed leaders summit with China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam in Phnom Penh on Jan. 10, 2018.
The data obtained by the hackers pertained to those discussions, the indictment said, without elaborating.
On the same day, the hackers hid and transmitted “trade secrets and proprietary hydroacoustic data” within digital images of a koala bear and former US president Donald Trump, it said, adding that the material was sent to an online account controlled by the hackers.
It was not clear whether the hydroacoustic data — collected by sonar and used to monitor underwater features — was of the Mekong River area.
HOUSES FLOODED: The ground shook in Tonga as explosions were heard, followed by gushing water and pelting rocks, sending people running to higher ground A massive volcanic eruption in Tonga that triggered tsunami waves around the Pacific caused “significant damage” to the island nation’s capital and smothered it in dust, but the full extent was not apparent with communications still cut off yesterday. The eruption on Saturday was so powerful that it was recorded around the world, triggering a tsunami that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the US. Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, suffered “significant” damage, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding that there had been no reports of injury or death, but a full assessment was not possible with communication lines down. “The tsunami has
‘ZERO’ STRATEGY: Carrie Lam said the airline faced a probe over its compliance with the rules after an outbreak was traced to air crew who breached quarantine Cathay Pacific is being investigated and faces possible legal action over an outbreak of COVID-19 in Hong Kong that began with the airline’s employees, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) said yesterday. The revelation came as Lam announced the suspension of all kindergarten and primary schools until after the Lunar New Year early next month. Like China, Hong Kong maintains a “zero COVID” strategy that has largely cut the international finance hub off from the mainland and the rest of the world for the past two years. A recent outbreak traced to Cathay Pacific air crew who breached home quarantine has sparked
PORT CONGESTION: Ships heading for Omicron-affected Dalian and Tianjin are being redirected to Shanghai, which does not have the capacity for the sudden cargo influx China has detected the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 in a second major port city, deepening concern that the vastly more infectious variant could spread quickly across the world’s largest trading nation, upending global supply chains. Chinese officials said yesterday that at least one person has Omicron in Dalian, a city of 7 million. A second person also tested positive for the virus, but the variant is unknown. Both are college students who returned home for the Lunar New Year holiday from Tianjin, where at least 137 other cases were traced as of Wednesday. Dalian joins Tianjin as the second crucial port city
Japan extended measures barring almost all new foreign arrivals until the end of next month and is to reopen mass vaccination centers as it battles an surge of COVID-19 cases, the government said yesterday. “We will keep the current border control policy until the end of February while taking necessary measures from a humanitarian viewpoint and considering the national interest,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters. Local media said that there would be some new exemptions for members of Japanese families as well as students studying in Japan, but there were no immediate details from officials. The government is also to reopen