China launches AI-based image generation for influence operations


China has unveiled a new cyber capability powered by artificial intelligence, enabling the automatic generation of images for influence operations. These operations aim to mimic American voters across the political spectrum, fueling racial, economic and ideological controversies.

The findings come from a new report released Thursday by Microsoft Threat Analysis Center (MTAC). Titled “Sophistication, scope and scale: Digital threats from East Asia are increasing in scale and effectiveness,” the research highlights the growing threat of influence operations and cyber activities in the East Asia region. ballast.

In particular, China-affiliated actors are using AI-generated media to target politically controversial topics such as gun violence and denigration of American political figures and symbols. This technology outperforms previous campaigns with eye-catching content. The extent and timing of its massive deployment remain uncertain.

Microsoft emphasized the urgency of combating the weaponization of AI technology by cybercriminals and influencing threat actors.

Additionally, China-based threat actors have been observed conducting cyber operations focused on the South China Sea region, targeting governments and industries in the region. US defense industry and infrastructure are also under scrutiny. Notably, Storm-0558, a China-based threat actor, accessed Microsoft customer email accounts of approximately 25 organizations, indicating espionage motivations.

Read more about Storm-0558: Microsoft accused of negligence in recent email compromise

China maintains a global presence through state-sponsored propaganda efforts to improve its image abroad. More than 230 state media employees and affiliates pose as independent social media influencers, promoting CCP propaganda to a total of 103 million people in 40 languages ​​on social media platforms Western.

However, unlike Iran and Russia, China has not yet combined its cybersecurity and influence operations, Microsoft noted. Meanwhile, North Korea is focused on intelligence gathering and cryptocurrency theft. The maritime and naval sectors are prime targets, with recent espionage activities directed against the Russian government and defense industry, accompanied by support for Russia in the Ukraine conflict.

The report anticipates an escalation of threats from China and North Korea, particularly towards Taiwan and the United States, as the 2024 elections approach. Cross-sector collaboration is essential to address these challenges, as state actors continue to exploit vulnerabilities and spread harmful narratives globally.

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