China might have amassed enough digital information to have a dossier on every American adult, and possibly, children," former Trump administration Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger told a Senate panel last week.
"Assembling dossiers on people has always been a feature of Leninist regimes, but Beijing’s penetration of digital networks worldwide has taken this to a new level," Pottinger, who served in President Donald Trump's White House for four years, said during his Aug. 4 testimony in front of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
"The party compiles dossiers on millions of foreign citizens around the world, using the material it gathers to influence and intimidate, reward, and blackmail, flatter and humiliate, divide, and conquer. As Bill Evanina's written testimony made plain, Beijing has stolen sensitive data sufficient to build a dossier on every American adult — and on many of our children, too, who are fair game under Beijing's rules of political warfare."
The U.S. and other allies blame China for a massive hack of Microsoft's email service in July as well as several other cyber intrusions.
"The United States has long been concerned about the People's Republic of China's (PRC) irresponsible and destabilizing behavior in cyberspace," a White House statement July 19 read. "Today, the United States and our allies and partners are exposing further details of the PRC's pattern of malicious cyber activity and taking further action to counter it, as it poses a major threat to U.S. and allies' economic and national security."
The European Union, United Kingdom, and NATO joined in the statement criticizing the communist nation for its role in "malicious cyber activities."
In March, thousands of small businesses and government offices had their respective Microsoft emails hacked through a digital "back door," providing the assailants with information on users' accounts, emails, and used the access to "install unauthorized software," the New York Post reported.
Despite Microsoft deploying emergency patches, the attacks continued.
Pottinger said the hacks are all part of China's "United Front" plan to gather intelligence about influential people and organizations in the world and then use that information to influence those people, focusing on foreign elites, and governments, to do China's bidding.
In addition, Pottinger said, China is now mounting digital campaigns in the social media realm by exploiting platforms by flooding them with both overt, and covert propaganda.
"The propaganda is focused not only on promoting whitewashed narratives of Beijing's policies, but also on exacerbating social tensions within the United States and other target nations," he said. "The Chinese government and its online proxies, for example, have for months promoted content that questions the effectiveness and safety of Western-made COVID-19 vaccines. Research by the Soufan Center has also found indications that China-based influence operations online are outpacing Russian efforts to amplify some conspiracy theories."
Pottinger said the U.S. should stop funding Chinese research into technologies that foster the surveillance state, like facial recognition, which is turning into a "data mining" operation against American, as well as Chinese citizens.
He also said the U.S. should do more to battle the propaganda being distributed on social media.
"U.S. social media companies have the technological know-how and resources to take a leading role in exposing and tamping down shadowy influence operations," he said. "The US government should partner more closely with Silicon Valley companies in this work."
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