Buying political power through Facebook: Weapons-grade communication tactics to influence democratic elections, the new normal

Introduction

A Netflix documentary “The Great Hack” explores how a data company called Cambridge Analytica came to symbolize the dark side of social media in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and its involvement with the Leave.EU campaign by the Brexit Party in the U.K. The power of social media companies such as Facebook and the abuse of its data by companies seems to be growing. As a consequence, Facebook recently created a Facebook Supreme Court. Apparently, Facebook must create their own mechanisms of self-regulation. One might even ask if social media companies now have the power of governance?1 This makes me wonder … where are our governments that should be promoting and protecting democratic principles? Yes, also on social media. In this article I will briefly examine the remarkable rise of Forum for Democracy (Fvd), a conservative, right-wing populist, Eurosceptic political party in The Netherlands. Throughout this article I will argue that FvD has most successfully bought their political power and influence through social media by running its lie machine most effective. This is problematic because these lie machines generate false explanations that seem to fit the facts, erode trust in institutions, and abuse the ability to shape behavior for profit or power based entirely on self-authorization with no democratic or moral legitimacy. Finally, this article concludes by stating that using weapons-grade communications tactics, such as micro targeting groups with political propaganda through social media in elections, has become the new normal. Even in a Western European democratic country like The Netherlands.

The rise of the lie machine(s)

FvD was founded in late 2016. The party first participated in 2017, winning their first two seats out of 150 seats in the House of Representatives. But in the 2019 provincial elections, FvD won the most number of seats. A staggering 86 seats out of 570 in total. What explains this success? It is their use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and their ability to exploit micro targeting better than other political parties. A quick analysis in a Facebook Ad Library data set clearly shows the numbers.2

I have filtered the data set on ads in The Netherlands and on descending order of amount spent. I have excluded campaigns that cost less than 5,000 Eur. FvD spent a significant amount more than Socialist Party (SP), the number two on the list. FvD spent almost 32 times more than Party for the Animals (PvdD). Leading up to the provincial elections in 2019, it is stated by insiders that approximately 2 million was expended on ads through social media, including Facebook.3

This is problematic because such micro targeting is basically political propaganda organized as lie machines. As Howard explains: “Lie machines are large, complex mechanisms made up of people, organizations, and social media algorithms that generate theories to fit a few facts, while leaving you with a crazy conclusion easily undermined by accurate information. By manipulating data (often illegitimately harvest, bought or stolen) and algorithms in the service of a political agenda, the best lie machines generate false explanations that seem to fit the facts”.4

Lie machines consists out of three main components:

  • Producer of lies that serve and ideology or the interests of political elites; the producer of lies in this case is the political party FvD itself.
  • Distributor of lies; the distributor of lies in this case is social media such as Facebook.
  • Marketer of political lies; the marketer of political lies concerns him or herself with the manipulating of the lies to an individual based on micro targeting.

This tailored political propaganda leads to the creation of lies with text, videos and images that is specifically targeted to a micro group based on privacy invading parameters that are somehow obtained by the marketer.5 By handing out all our data that contains our thoughts, emotions and preference for free to “connect with our friends and family”, Facebook is able to monetize this data as a commodity. This commodity is of high value for commercial organizations to sell their products or services. Recently, dictators in fragile states or political parties in democratic societies seem to tag along in their quest to retain or obtain power and influence. The lie machines no longer are participating in a public debate for different audiences against opponents with different views on societal issues that will challenge the ideology of a political party. Instead, the debate is now highly dispersed through several social media platforms. A level playing field for politicians to pitch their ideas to potential voters and defend their views on societal issues is become less important. Instead, the lie machine goes directly to their audience based on micro targeting. This is problematic for a democratic society. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations is working on a new law for political parties to tackle his problem.6 The law will contain rules for financing a political party and how a party shall be organized and on top of that will it try to restrain uncontrolled digital campaigning such as micro targeting via social media platforms. Zuboff, the author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” has this to say about such practices: “The power to shape behaviour for others’ profit or power is entirely self-authorising. It has no foundation in democratic or moral legitimacy”.7

Conclusion

A final remark on buying political power through Facebook by gearing up sophisticated lie machines that occasionally cross ethical borders, relates to something even more obscure. Lie machines tactics employed such as Cambridge Analytica and FvD are not as innocent as they might seem at first sight. “So what they are using my personal data to micro target me with a personalized message?”. Well first of all, it is not an ad to buy toothpaste because you googled something or liked a certain Facebook page. It is about our democracy and its political parties to which we transfer our public voice to in order to represent our interests. Should we transfer our voice through this commercialization of personalized political ads based on a digital profile to the selection of our potential new Prime Minister? Secondly, the methodology used by lie machines via large data sets and micro targeting campaign ads with cleverly crafted different messages by the same political party is considered “a weapon, weapons-grade communications tactics, which means that we had to tell the British government if it was going to be deployed in another country outside the United Kingdom”8 Apparently, it has become the new normal to deploy such tactics on our own citizens and it is tolerated. Although more attention has been given to these practices with means to control the current unlimited and yet uncharted ground to win the “hearts and minds” of voters. By any means necessary, apparently.

12020. Kaye, David. JustSecurity. “The Republic of Facebook” accessed via https://www.justsecurity.org/70035/the-republic-of-facebook/

22020. Facebook. Ad Library accessed via https://facebook.com/ads/library

32020. Davidson, David & Rik Delhaas. VPRO, Argos. “Als de politiek in ieder oor een andere belofte fluistert” accessed via https://www.vpro.nl/argos/lees/nieuws/2020/microtargeting-in-Nederland.html

42020. Howard, Philip N. “Lie Machines: How to Save Democracy from Troll Armies, Deceitful Robots, Junk News Operations, and Political Operatives”. Chapter 1, p2.

52002. van de Ven, Coen. De Groene Amsterdammer. “Propaganda op maat” accessed via https://www.groene.nl/artikel/propaganda-op-maat

62002. van de Ven, Coen. De Groene Amsterdammer. “Propaganda op maat” accessed via https://www.groene.nl/artikel/propaganda-op-maat

72019. Nauhgton, John. The Guardian. “’The goal is to automate us’: welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism” accessed via https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/20/shoshana-zuboff-age-of-surveillance-capitalism-google-facebook

82019. Dwilson, Stephanie Dube. Heavy “‘The Great Hack’: Cambridge Analytica’s Weapons-Grade Communication Tactics” accessed via https://heavy.com/entertainment/2019/07/weapons-grade-communication-cambridge-analytica/

Operation Beebus: The Exfiltration Of U.S. Drone Technology And Its Implications

Abstract

In this research paper, the cyber operation “Beebus” will be analyzed by using strategic, technical and (military-) operational perspectives. A conceptual model will be applied in order to operationalize military cyber operations like operation Beebus in relation to fighting power. Furthermore, operation Beebus will serve as a case study to highlight various perspectives and academic debates on cyberwarfare. Finally, this research paper will present an evaluation on how this operation may contribute to a government’s cyber capabilities and the effectiveness of operation Beebus, and suggests countermeasures.

Keywords: cyberwar, cybersecurity, cyber operations

Introduction

“China’s slow, incremental march toward a cutting-edge air force quietly continues”.[1] The development of drone technology serves two purposes for China. First, as a lucrative export product. Second, as a defense capability to deter adversaries in the South China Sea which is of strategic importance. It is believed that China has been stealing sensitive U.S. drone technology information from at least 20 defense contractors for more than two years.[2] In 2013, an U.S. network security company FireEye, Inc. has discovered this Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) campaign consistently targeting companies in the aerospace and defense industries related to drone technology.[3] This research paper will analyze operation Beebus and is structured in three sections. The first section will provide a comprehensive analysis of the operation based on the conceptual model for operationalizing military cyber operations in relation to fighting power by Ducheine and van Haaster (2014). The second section will introduce various perspectives and academic debates regarding military cyber operations like operation Beebus and cyberwar in general. The third section will provide an evaluation how a military cyber operation like Beebus may contribute to a nation-state’s cyber capabilities and how it threatens a nation-state’s interest and suggests countermeasures.

Section 1: Analyzing Operation Beebus

In this section operation Beebus will be analyzed based on the conceptual model for cyber operations in relation to fighting power. In order to understand the context of cyber operations like operation Beebus, the following definition of cyber war is adopted (Shakarian, Shakarian, & Ruef, 2013, p. 2): “Cyber war is an extension of policy by actions taken in cyber space by state or non-state actors that either constitute a serious threat to a nation’s security or are conducted in response to a perceived threat against a nation’s security”. By clarifying the definition of cyber war it is emphasized in this research paper that cyber war is different from cyber security in general because of the reference to a serious threat to a nation’s security. This implies an explicit role for the armed forces. A malware on an individual user’s laptop to steal credit card details or the infiltration of a corporate network to steal intellectual property can be a nuisance but is not part of cyber warfare. However, when the individual is targeted because he or she is a high ranking government official or when the corporate network is a closed network containing classified information it can be a matter of national security indeed. Operation Beebus specifically targeted individual and companies with access to drone technology in order to boost the drones capability development of a certain country. The operation is considered an APT campaign that lasted at least two years. APT processes require a high degree of covertness over a long period of time with the use of sophisticated techniques, an external command control server for continuously monitoring and extracting data, and the direct human involvement in orchestrating the attack (Musa, 2014). Furthermore, in this research paper military cyber operations are defined as (Ducheine & van Haaster, 2014, p. 313): “The employment of cyber capabilities with the prime purpose of achieving military objectives in or by the use of cyberspace”. The following conceptual model to analyze military cyber operations related to fighting power will be used (see figure 1).

Afbeelding1

Figure 1: Fighting Power and Cyber Operations. Adapted from Ducheine & van Haaster (2014).

Intelligence suggests that a group called ‘Comment Crew’ is behind the operation and it is believed to be a state-sponsored hacker group.[4] The fact that drone technology is the targeted asset aligns with the recent signs of the growing ambitions of China’s drone capability development program. However, it cannot be proven for sure that this operation has been ordered by the Chinese government. This problem is related to the question of attribution. Nevertheless, by analyzing operation Beebus it will seem likely that this was a state-sponsored (military) cyber operation by the Chinese government. A security analyst has to identify basically three things when examining a cyber operation; origin, structure, and purpose (Shakarian, Shakarian, & Ruef, 2013, p. 4). Throughout this research paper the attribution question will be answered, although not definitely. However, another problem arises because of the question of deception. Whenever an attribution is assumed, the possibility of an adversary using deception, the “deception hypothesis” must be considered. Thus, the likelihood that several pieces of intelligence are accurate and feasible (attribution), it can be established whether the deception thesis should be applied by asking the right questions such as “Does organization Z have the capability conduct operation X”, “Does organization Z have a reason to conduct operation X”, “How likely is it that organization Z would have left intelligence Y indicating its responsibilities?”, “Is there another organization Q that has the capability to conduct operation X?” and so on and so forth. Nevertheless, analyzing a cyber operation and its findings cannot provide real hard evidence but this is out of the scope of this research paper.

Operation Beebus is believed to be conducted by the “Comment Crew” and related to the “Shanghai Group” which is allegedly part of China’s People Liberation Army (PLA). The Comment Crew is known for placing encrypted HTML comments embedded in benign websites, transforming them into malicious websites. During operation Beebus, companies in the aerospace and defence industries, and academia have been consistently targeted for gathering research design and manufacturing details of the latest U.S. drone technologies. Furthermore, the malware used was socially engineered and constructed in documents and whitepapers related to South Asian military affairs and international relations. If it is assumed that the Chinese government is in some way involved in operation Beebus it could be argued that the following instruments and components of power have been used. Betz & Stevens (2011, pp. 45-53) propose four distinct forms of cyber-power which are; compulsory, institutional, structural, and productive. Hence; “Cyber-power is therefore the manifestation of power in cyberspace rather than a new or different form of power” (Ibid, p 44).

This research paper identifies the direct and indirect use of all four distinct forms of cyber-power. Namely, compulsory power has been applied through coercive action and control over the behavior humans and computers in order to steal drone technology which could potentially be used against U.S. national security interests. Second, institutional power is used to indirectly control an actor through the mediation of formal and informal institutions. China’s efforts to approve a Russian-drafted agreement in the international system, in 2009, based on certain rules and norms on behavior in cyberspace by nation-states in favor of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) members is an example of a coordinated institutional power instrument. [5] [6] Third, structural power has been applied via operation Beebus because it has the potential to disrupt the status quo in the international system where currently the U.S. is considered as the global superpower. China might seek to disrupt this status quo by gathering and collecting crucial U.S. drone technology for its own interests. Specializing in conducting covert military cyber operations which are difficult to attribute does seem as a powerful instrument to disrupt the status quo. Fourth, productive power is used through a mediated discourse by and enacted in cyberspace to facilitate and constrain social action. China released reports and statements countering U.S. claims with their own charges of cyber-espionage conducted by the U.S.[7] By doing so, China might strive to persuade non friendly nation states towards the U.S. and tip the mediated discourse balance in favor of China.

It is difficult to assign operation Beebus into a single threat category in relation to national security mandates. It is also important to understand that national cyber security is not one single subject area. The following five distinct mandates are mentioned by Klimburg and Mirtl (2012) which are: Military cyberactivities; counter-cybercrime; intelligence and counter-intelligence; critical infrastructure protection and national crisis management; and cyberdiplomacy and internet governance. Operation Beebus has elements of social engineering e.g. the ‘weaponized’ pdf files with specific titles to spur interest of a target. Also, there is the stealing of intellectual property and espionage. The operational Technique, Tactic and Procedure (TTP) applied in operation Beebus is spear-phishing. Socially engineered emails with pdf attachments in the form of documents and reports by well-known companies such as Boeing and KPMG and white papers with titles such as “Pakistan’s Indigenous UAV Industry” were sent to persons of interest. The technical TTP applied is modifying pdf files using Ghostscript in order to infect users with malware using a well-document vulnerability known as DLL search order hijacking. Upon opening the pdf file a DLL (trojan) is dropped in the C:\\Windows Directory and will persist on the device. Then, it sends back an initial GET request to a Command and Control (C&C) server which is traced back to somewhere in China. The trojan collects information from the computer and sends back encrypted information in order to avoid detection. However, this C&C server used a TCP Proxy tool in order to disguise either the true source or destination of the stolen information traffic. Thus, it is clear to see that the attribution problem arises and that the deception thesis needs to be taken into account. Nevertheless, intelligence suggests that the Chinese government is somehow directly or indirectly involved based on targeted objects and persons, and the operational and technical TTPs.

But is operation Beebus part of military cyberactivities? In this research paper it is argued that it is, because in or through cyberspace military objectives are being achieved. Namely, stealing drone technology in order to boost the drone capability development program. Second, information could be used to research and develop TTP on how to hack the drones of potential enemies via reverse engineering and finding the exploits in a Cyber-Physical System (CPS) like drones. Finally, the effect of such an operation increases distrust and forces countries like the U.S. and China to engage in cyberdiplomacy. Thus, the components related to fighting power which are affected by this operation are physical, moral, and conceptual (Ducheine & van Haaster, 2014, p. 305). First, the equipment and the confidentiality, integrity and confidentiality has been compromised. China has procured and manufactured a drone, Wing Loong, that is very similar to the U.S. drone, Predator, but produces and sells its drone for much cheaper than the U.S. version. Second, the moral component of fighting power has been affected because this operation has raised doubts on what the Chinese government knows about U.S. manufactured drones and what they can do with this information. Third, the conceptual component has been affected that should lead to certain training and education for drone operators in order to raise awareness about the possibility that drones contain vulnerabilities and can be exploited by a willing and capable adversary. But is operation Beebus an act of cyberwar? When a cyber operation constitutes a significant threat to a nation’s security, it can be considered an act of cyberwar. In the next section several perspectives and academic debates on cyberwar will be taken into consideration and applied to operation Beebus.

Section 2: Perspectives and Debates on Cyberwar

In this section various perspectives and academic debates on cyberwar will be introduced. Cyberwar is a contested and loaded term (Klimburg & Mirtl, 2012, p. 15). It is argued by Klimburg and Mirtl that a cyberattack constitutes ‘battlefield cyberwarfare’ if military cybercapabilities are used only within a clearly defined tactical military mission. In the case of operation Beebus, the effects are not limited to the operational-tactical environment. Furthermore, the emphasis of military cyberactivities can lie on ‘strategic cyberwarfare’ that is the ability to strike at the heart of a nation (Ibid, p 16). Thus, operation Beebus would not fall under the national cybersecurity mandate of military cyberactivities but more likely under mandate of intelligence and counter-intelligence. Although distinguishing the act of espionage from military activities is not uncontroversial. More fittingly, discussing cyberwarfare is controversial and creating separate mandates with separate roles and responsibilities might not be the best way to properly deal with cyber operations like Beebus.

In 2010, a Chatham House report “On Cyberwarfare” described cyberspace as ‘terra nullius’ and beyond the reach of a mature political discourse (Cornish, Livingstone, Clementa, & Yorke). Therefore, cyberspace is an attractive place for nation-states and non-state actors to pursue certain goals. The Chinese government is believed to have embraced cybercapabilities in order to target sensitive information from a military superior U.S and fits within the doctrine of ‘using information superiority to achieve greater victories at a smaller cost’ (Cornish, Livingstone, Clementa, & Yorke, 2010, p. 8). It would also be wise to realize that the strategic and military thinking in China is not based on writings of the soldier-philosopher Clausewitz or general Jomini like most advanced Western nations. The Chinese cyber strategy offers room for cyber espionage campaigns like Beebus (Shakarian, Shakarian, & Ruef, 2013, pp. 116-117). In the game of Go, the equivalent for the game of chess, it not the goal to seek the destruction of pawns in order to capture the king but the goal is to conquer parts of the game space. Furthermore, one of China’s strategic objective is to maximize the strategic configuration of power, called “Shi” which refers to the ability to ensuring a victory over a superior force and on setting favorable conditions for when a conflict does arise (Ibid). Hence, operation Beebus fits within the doctrine of using information superiority, the strategy of conquering parts of cyberspace, and setting favorable conditions for a future conflict.

Furthermore, setting the battlefield for a game of Go and establishing Shi in order to conduct military cyber operations is backed up with the ‘three warfares’ (Shakarian, Shakarian, & Ruef, 2013, p. 119). These include media which is used to support the righteous cause of China. Second, the legal justification of this cause and third, psychological warfare to aide friendly and attack the enemy’s morale. Even though intelligence suggests that the Chinese government is responsible for operation Beebus, it would be wise to consider the possibility of a Reflexive Control (RC) military operation. For Russia, RC is one the primary methods to interfere with decision-making process of an enemy commander (Thomas, 2004, p. 237). RC is defined as a means of conveying an opponent specially prepared information to incline him to voluntarily make the predetermined decision desired by the initiator of the action (Ibid). The following describes how computer technology creates new opportunities to RC: “In present conditions, there is a need to act not only against people but also against technical reconnaissance assets and especially weapons guidance systems, which are impassive in assessing what is occurring and do not perceive to what a person reacts” (Thomas, 2004, p. 247). Through RC, Russia could be applying a form a ‘perception’ management through the control of cyber operations like Beebus in order to distract, paralyze, deceit or provoke the U.S. government in engaging a long and costly cyber war.

Regarding the likelihood of cyber warfare, Rid (2012, p. 6) argues that cyber war does not take place in the present and that it is highly unlikely that cyber war will occur in the future. Rid considers cyber-attacks merely as sophisticated versions of subversion, espionage, and sabotage and not as an act of war because they are non-lethal. Correspondingly, Libicki (2012, p. 335) argues that the notion of seeing cyberspace as a warfighting domain that needs to be dominated just like the other warfighting domains is misleading and pernicious because superiority cannot be achieved in cyberspace. In contrast, Stone (2013, p. 107) concludes that cyber-attacks could constitute acts of war if it becomes clear what is meant by force and violence, and their relationship with lethality (i.e. kinetic impact). In addition, Zetter (2015) contends that we are already at cyber war and observes that more than 20 countries like the US, China, UK, Israel, North Korea, Iran and Russia have built cyber offensive capabilities in the past few years.

Section 3: Evaluating the Effects and Suggested Countermeasures

This research paper concludes with an evaluation how a military cyber operation like Beebus might contribute to a nation-state’s cyber capabilities and how it threatens a nation-state’s interest. For the sake of arguments, it is now assumed that the Chinese government is responsible for operation Beebus. But is stealing drone technology cyber war? It is clear to see that drone technology relates to a nation’s security. It would be reasonable to categorize this operation as part of the intelligence and military cyberactivities national cyber security mandates. According to Applegate (2015, p. 1) there is a: “credible capability to use cyber attacks to achieve kinetic effects”. The main targets for kinetic cyber attacks CPS. A CPS is the integration of computer systems with physical processes such as drones. And like other information technologies, drones were designed with little security. Drones are prone to attacks as they are equipped with sensors to process data and this exposes them to vulnerabilities (Rani, Modares, & Sriram, 2015).

Considering the game of Go, establishing Shi, the possibility of RC and the exploits to CPS like drones, operation Beebus seems less of an isolated cyberespionage campaign but indeed part of a coherent cyber security doctrine and strategy against a nation’s security with intelligence suggesting that the Chinese government is in some way involved. Does this mean that operation Beebus is battle in a cyberwar between China and the U.S? Let us turn back to the definitions used in this research paper. “Cyber war is an extension of policy by actions taken in cyber space by state or non-state actors that either constitute a serious threat to a nation’s security or are conducted in response to a perceived threat against a nation’s security” (Shakarian, Shakarian, & Ruef, 2013, p. 2). Operation Beebus can now be considered as an extension of the Chinese doctrine and strategy against U.S. national security interests. Also, the definition of military cyber operations can be applied to Beebus; “The employment of cyber capabilities with the prime purpose of achieving military objectives in or by the use of cyberspace” (Ducheine & van Haaster, 2014, p. 313). At first glance, the operation might fall under the ‘artificial’ national security mandate of intelligence and counter-intelligence. However, due to the targeted specific technology related to U.S. drones the operation can also be considered as part of military cyberactivities. It all depends on which perspective is applied when interpreting a cyber operation.

In its most basic form operation Beebus is a spear-phishing campaign designed to be highly personalized therefore hitting the human weak spots (Parmar, 2012). Employees of drone technology companies regularly open and reply to emails on the move. The cause of this is the proliferation of mobile devices. To counter the threats from operations like Beebus, organizations need to increase awareness of spear-phishing and educate on how to avoid cyber-fraud (Ibid, p 10). Blacklisting certain Internet Protocol (IP) addresses could be a solution but easily bypassed. Therefore, a layered protection strategy, or ‘defence in depth’ should be applied. Instead of blacklisting, IT managers should whitelist exactly which programs should be permitted to run and does not depend on updates from anti-virus programs. Also, a method for restoring systems to their original setting should be made available at every computer and mobile device containing sensitive information.

Conclusion

China’s drone capability development program has been steadily growing the past five years. Intelligence suggests that the Chinese government is responsible for operation Beebus although this paper does not provide any hard evidence. The operation is an APT campaign that lasted for at least two years. In this research paper is it argued that cyber war is an extension of policy by action taken in cyber space by state or non-state actors that constitutes a serious threat to another nation’s security. A conceptual model for analyzing military cyber operations related to fighting power has been used to interpret the operation. The problem of attribution and the possibility of deception has been introduced and it is stated that there cannot be any real hard evidence for the claim that China is indeed responsible. Nevertheless, forms of cyber-power have been found which are applied via operation Beebus. Drone technology is stolen, indirect control over U.S. is applied, the status quo is indirectly challenged if China ought to be the number one drone manufacturer in the next ten years, and China released reports and statements countering U.S. claims with their own charges of cyber-espionage conducted by the U.S. government. Operation Beebus can be considered as part of the intelligence and counter-intelligence, and the military cyberactivities national cyber security mandate because of its relation to U.S. national security interests. The operational and technical TTP’s of the operation indicates direct human orchestration. Because cyberspace is still beyond the reach of a mature political discourse, it is an attractive place for pursuing military goals for rising powers such as China to challenge U.S. hegemony. The Chinese cyber strategy and doctrine provides sufficient possibilities to engage the U.S. via cyber operations like Beebus. Operation Beebus fits within the doctrine of using information superiority, the strategy of conquering parts of cyberspace, and setting favorable conditions for a future conflict. Stealing drone technology alone does not directly indicate serious threats to a nation’s security. Therefore, the credible capability to use cyber attacks to achieve kinetic effects is also mentioned. Drones are CPS prone to attacks and exploitation of vulnerabilities. It is thus wise to not only look at the operation itself but also to consider its context within international security and the power struggle between nation-states. A layered protection strategy, or ‘defence in depth’ could be a good countermeasure against spear-phishing operations like Beebus, this includes blacklisting, whitelisting applications and systems restoring methods at the touch of a button on any device containing sensitive information.

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[1] Groll, Elias. 2015. “China’s Drone Program Keeps Stealthily Inching Forward”. Foreign Policy. Accessed 24-02-2016 via https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/01/13/chinas_drone_program_keeps_stealthily_inching_forward/.

[2] Wong, Edward. 2013. “Hackng U.S. Secrets, China Pushes for Drones.” The New York Times. Accessed 24-02-2016 via http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/21/world/asia/hacking-us-secrets-china-pushes-for-drones.html?_r=0.

[3] FireEye, Inc. 2013. “Operation Beebus”. FireEye. Accessed 24-02-2016 via https://www.fireeye.com/blog/threat-research/2013/02/operation-beebus.html.

[4] FireEye, Inc. 2013. “The Mutter Backdoor: Operation Beebus With New Targets”. FireEye. Accessed on 24-2-2016 via https://www.fireeye.com/blog/threat-research/2013/04/the-mutter-backdoor-operation-beebus-with-new-targets.html.

[5] The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is considered as the Asian political-military alliance equivalence to NATO.

[6] Gjelten, Tom. 2010. “Shadow Wars: Debating Cyber ‘’Disarmament’”. World Affairs. Accessed on 24-2-2016 via http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/shadow-wars-debating-cyber-disarmament

[7] Kan, Michael. 2014. “China counter US claims with own charges of cyber-espionage”. Computerworld. Accessed on 24-2-2016 via http://www.computerworld.com/article/2489555/cyberwarfare/china-counters-us-claims-with-own-charges-of-cyber-espionage.html