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India floats plan to make big tech pay for news, walks back government censorship

Asia In Brief India’s IT minister has signaled he is willing to revisit a proposal to use government fact checkers to decide what is fake news that should be removed from social media.

In remarks made to Indian outlet The Economic Times, minister of state for electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said the government’s plan was to “crack down on enemies of India, state actors, those with vested interests, child sexual abuse, and religious incitement” – but not on general news or comment.

Over the weekend, the minister also raised the topic of having Big Tech pay to link to news stories published by India’s media.

Chandrasekhar made his remarks at an event addressed by former Australian communications minister Paul Fletcher, who had a hand in Australia’s introduction of a code requiring Facebook and Google to pay to link. That scheme appears to be worth tens of millions of dollars each year for large news publishers.

Canada and the European Union have since pursued schemes like Australia’s, and Chandrasekhar suggested Indian media could benefit from similar arrangements.

– Simon Sharwood

IDC says worker shortage means Asian SMBs will speed automation

Analyst firm International Data Corporation (IDC) has predicted the world’s shortage of workers and the costs associated with them will lead to an increase in automation and adoption of digital tools in one third of small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) over the next three years.

Worker shortages will drive automation in all sectors, not just IT.

“Asia/Pacific SMBs understand that technology is important for business resiliency. However, low IT budgets and outdated skills are the key challenges that Asia/Pacific SMBs face,” said Supriya Deka, senior market analyst for Asia Pacific digital small and medium-sized business, IDC Asia/Pacific. “Despite these challenges, SMBs are increasingly investing in technology as they have realized the benefits of increasing operational efficiency to help reduce costs and enable rapid business growth.”

IDC also predicts SMBs will increase total IT investment and connectivity service budgets by 40 percent by 2027 as they try to compete with larger businesses. And by 2025, a quarter will shift half of their core workloads to the cloud.

The observations were contained in a publication from the firm titled “Worldwide Small and Medium-Sized Business and Digital-Native Business 2023 Predictions — Asia/Pacific (Excluding Japan) Implications”.

Australia enhances powers against online misinformation

Australia’s government has flagged it will compel online platforms to act against disinformation and misinformation if they don’t abide by a forthcoming industry code.

Minister for communications Michelle Rowland last week announced that regulator the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will create the code after community and industry consultation. The rules “will aim to strike a balance between the public interest in combatting the serious harms from disinformation and misinformation, with the right to freedom of speech.”

The code will therefore “focus on systemic issues which pose a risk of serious harm, while ensuring that platforms have the systems and processes in place to combat them.”

ACMA will not have a role in taking down content that breaches the code, which will likely include “stronger tools to empower users to identify and report disinformation and misinformation.”

– Simon Sharwood

Fujitsu reveals role in Taiwanese weather supercomputer

Fujitsu last week announced it had developed a supercomputer that Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau uses to make predictions.

The system is already running but is not yet in its final form, which it is expected to assume by December 2023. It’s already lauded as the fastest supercomputer in Taiwan, with a theoretical peak performance of 10 PFLOPS. Its previous computer was installed in 2001 and boasts a mere 240 gigaflops.

The system is “primarily based” on the PRIMEHPC FX1000, which features the same A64FX CPU as global top supercomputer Fugaku. No other technical details were given.

As for PRIMEHPC FX1000, each of its 384 nodes is built around a single48-core A64FX chip with 32GB of HBM2 memory stacked on top. It achieves a memory bandwidth of 1,024GB/sec.

Fujitsu said the new system will help mitigate the threats posed to Taiwan by typhoons and heavy rain.

Busan, South Korea wants to be the world leader for digital asset trading

The South Korean port city of Busan has detailed a plan to become a hub for digital assets trading.

“We plan to foster Seoul as the center of traditional asset trading and Busan as the center of digital asset trading, just as New York is the center of stock and bond (NYSE) and Chicago is the center of commodity and futures (CME, CBOT) trading,” said the announcement on the city’s website.

The city said that in the decentralized fair exchange system, functions such as deposit settlement, listing evaluation and market monitoring will be separated across different institutions, in the same way as the existing stock trading system.

Chinese threat group 8220 Gang targeting cloud.

Cybersecurity firm Radware last week issued [PDF] a threat advisory warning that a China-based cybercrime gang known as 8220 has deployed a custom-built crypto miner and IRC bot to attack cloud providers and poorly secured applications using.

Radware claims it spotted the tools when the gang tried to infect one of its Redis honeypots in early January.

According to Radware, the crypto mining malware can both significantly impact system performance and expose systems to other forms of attack.

Once the systems are infected, “threat actors can use the same access to install other types of malware, such as keyloggers or remote access tools, which can subsequently be leveraged to steal sensitive information, gain unauthorized access to sensitive data, or deploy ransomware and wipers,” said the cybersecurity firm.

Unpatched Fortinet 0-day exploited by Chinese attackers

Cybersecurity firm and Google subsidiary Mandiant said last Thursday it was tracking Chinese attackers whose targets included a European government entity and an Africa-based managed service provider (MSP).

The group’s work has included exploiting a vulnerability in Fortinet’s FortiOS SSL VPN, known as CVE-2022-42475. It then installs custom Linux and Windows malware known as BOLDMOVE. The backdoor gives attackers remote control of the system.

“With BOLDMOVE, the attackers not only developed an exploit, but malware that shows an in-depth understanding of systems, services, logging, and undocumented proprietary formats,” said Mandiant.

China flag binaries

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“We believe that this is the latest in a series of Chinese cyber espionage operations that have targeted internet-facing devices and we anticipate this tactic will continue to be the intrusion vector of choice for well-resourced Chinese groups.”

The cybersecurity firm suspects the threat group has operated since October 2022. Fortinet disclosed the vulnerability in December.

Samsung expands its Wallet platform further into APAC

Samsung Electronics announced it was bringing its Samsung Wallet program to eight new markets at the end of January.

The platform is a combination of Samsung Pay and Samsung Pass allowing Galaxy users to store digital IDs, payment and loyalty cards, digital keys and such in one application.

Those new markets include Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. The service is already available in 21 countries.

In other news …

Our regional coverage from last week included news of a ban on Chinese video streaming app TikTok on university campuses around the United States under the directive of state governors, such as Texas’s Greg Abbott.

The US Commerce Department amended US technology export restrictions on China to include the Special Administrative Region of Macau, thereby addressing concerns that the area was used as a back door for goods to enter into the Middle Kingdom.

India’s four major IT outsourcers released quarterly results revealing declining attrition woes, despite last twelve-month rates above 20 percent for HCL, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys and Wipro.

Beijing lifted restrictions on ride-sharing outfit DiDi Chuxing, which was allowed to begin registering new riders after an 18-month ban.

A 2023 State of Mobile report from – the mobile analytics firm previously known as App Annie – revealed that out of the ten countries that spend the most time on phone apps, seven were in Asia.

An Indian official revealed plans to build a national mobile OS, dubbed IndOS.

Beijing announced it has built its own rideshare and transport-as-a-service platform called Qiangguo Jiaotong, which translates as “strong nation’s transportation”. The platform is intended as a means to combat the disorderly expansion and data security problems plaguing the nation’s existing online car-hailing industry.

Chinese gamers will be cut off from Blizzard games next week, including World of Warcraft.

Accounts tied to North Korea’s notorious Lazarus Group were frozen by two cryptocurrency exchanges, Binance and Huobi.

Chinese web and gaming giant Tencent disclosed that it had fired 100 people for corruption during 2022. Some were sentenced to jail time.

China’s government plans to grow its local infosec industry by 30 percent a year to $22 billion by 2025. ®