Google announced earlier this month that Chinese-backed hackers were observed targeting former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign staff.  The internet giant said that hackers did not appear to compromise the campaign’s security, but the surveillance was a reminder of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.  Analysts say China’s primary motive for breaking into a campaign is to collect intelligence such as Biden’s proposals for U.S. policy on China, although hackers could later try to use stolen intelligence to interfere in the campaign itself.  APT31  Shane Huntley, director of Google’s Threat Analysis Group twittered on June 4 that the company has discovered a “China APT group targeting Biden campaign staff with phishing,” but there was “no sign of compromise.” Recently TAG saw China APT group targeting Biden campaign staff & Iran APT targeting Trump campaign staff with phishing. No sign of compromise. We sent users our govt attack warning and we referred to fed law enforcement. https://t.co/ozlRL4SwhG
— Shane Huntley (@ShaneHuntley) FILE – Then-Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, and then-Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, talk during a presidential debate, October 15, 2008, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.During the 2008 presidential election campaign, a group of hackers believed to be supported by the Chinese government was FILE – Then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, stands with then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton before the first presidential debate at Hofstra University, September 26, 2016, in Hempstead, New York.Many political observers believe those emails undermined Clinton’s campaign, contributing to her loss in the 2016 election.  Information operations  Apart from hacking, foreign forces also use social media to spread misinformation that can mislead people or exacerbate political divisions among voters. This is referred to as “information operations” in the intelligence community.  Chinese officials are increasingly taking advantage of social media platforms that are banned in China, such as Twitter and Facebook, to conduct information operations overseas.  Michael Daniel, the president and CEO of Cyber Threat Alliance, an independent group of cyber security advisers, told VOA Mandarin he expects China to use information operations to promote policies and politicians that would seem more friendly to China.  “That’s very different than trying to disrupt the electoral process and have us wonder who actually won a particular race,” he told VOA Mandarin.  FireEye’s McNamara agreed. He added that China has been building its capability of employing information operations, and whether it will use it to interfere the U.S. election is one of the things to look for in the future.  Yet CSIS’s Lewis offered a more concerning perspective. He said that in the past few years, China has taken a much more overtly political campaign in Australia, Taiwan, Canada and some Southeast Asian countries.   “China is using all the tools it has to interfere with politics there. And I think they’re experimenting with a good way to do this in the U.S.,” he said. “I think the Chinese have decided they need to get into this game of political interference.” China has been repeatedly accused of attempting to influence the American elections. A Senate investigation in 1998 revealed that the Chinese government had illegally donated to the Democratic Party in the 1996 presidential election.  The U.S. National Intelligence Agency reported China tried to spread misinformation in the 2018 midterm elections.  Chinese officials have repeatedly denied that Beijing any intention of interfering with the internal affairs of other countries, and in April, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters during a daily briefing, “The U.S. presidential election is an internal affair, we have no interest in interfering in it.” Lin Yang contributed to this report.

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