In just a few weeks, Cambodia is set to start their contentious national elections. But according to a new cyber security report, Chinese hackers have successfully targeted the country’s electoral process.
FireEye, a US-based cybersecurity analysis firm, detailed Beijing’s suspected espionage activities in research released a fortnight before Cambodians visit the polls.
FireEye’s senior manager for cyber espionage analysis, Benjamin Read, believes the Chinese hackers were able to gain extensive access into Cambodia’s elections and government operations.
‘They’ve really extensively targeted a lot of different sections of Cambodia’s society,’ Mr Read said.
The tally of targets that the well-known Chinese hacking group called TEMP.Periscope has attacked is rising, affecting several key branches of Cambodia’s government, the Senate and the ministries of foreign affairs, economics and finance, as well as the opposition figures and local media outlets.
But the Chinese hackers didn’t stop there. FireEye sated that the Cambodian National Election Commission, Interior Ministry and diplomats were also compromised by the attacks.
Will interfere with the Cambodian election?
So far the report by FireEye only reveals evidence of Chinese intelligence gathering, rather than any election interference. But that is disturbing activity nonetheless.
Lurking in background of this story is the surge of Chinese aid Cambodia has received, and the recent ramp-up of pro-Beijing talk by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, along with strong anti-America rhetoric.
On 29 July this year, Prime Minister Hun Sen is set to take an almost uncontested election victory.
Benjamin Read was concerned with the activity from China, saying:
‘We’ve gotten kind of numb to china’s doing a lot of hacking and on one side it’s not exceptional, its activity we’ve seen from China before.
‘But if you step back and say “hey, this evidence means China can spy on a large swathe of Cambodian government and society”, that is very serious.’
Accusations of attempted control or influence over foreign governments are never far away from China, recently. We’ve followed this story closely, here at The Australian Tribune, as you can read here and here.
As Cambodia’s election approaches, and the evidence of China pulling on puppet strings mounts, the question is whether the Australian government will take note of this evidence, and doesn’t become too accustomed to the threats to our Asia-Pacific neighbours.
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