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February 19, 2013

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a3t

This seemed to suffer from the same syndrome. The suggestion seems to be that an American in his 20s was hoodwinked into helping the Chinese develop advanced semiconductors for military purposes and that he was murdered when he tried to get out. That's clearly what the journalists think.

But they never explain why the Chinese would need a young man with an MA to help them make advanced semiconductors - they'll be making mobile phones next! - or why it would be necessary to murder him if he caught on.

You also get the impression that the writers assume we agree with them that it's somehow below-the-belt of the Chinese to want to develop advanced military radars. So they end up proving far more about their feelings towards the upstart superpower than they do about the very sad story they're trying to tell.

john b

a3t: the way I read the piece, the Singapore company thought it would be advantageous if the export clearance paperwork for dual-use technology were completed and submitted by a Yank rather than a Sinister Inscrutable Foreigner. Which, given the context of the piece, may well be true.

ajay

That's a lousy analysis at the link. It misrepresents the report in the first paragraph: "In fact, according to Mandiant, if a company experiences an APT attack, then it is a victim of the Chinese government because in Mandiant-speak, APT equals China."
That's simply a lie. To quote from the summary: "Mandiant continues to track dozens of APT groups around the world; however, this report is focused on the most prolific of these groups. We refer to this group as “APT1” and it is one of more than 20 APT groups with origins in China."

And yes, it's perfectly true that there are lots of other nations and non-state actors that would like to steal secrets from the US, have lots of resources, employ English-speakers and so on.

But the key bit of information is that APT1 is doing it _from Shanghai_ and the author just handwaves that away by pointing out that Shanghai is really big and will have a Disneyland soon. Disneyland or no Disneyland, are we actually supposed to believe that (say) Mossad or ROC have set up a massive hacking operation in China? In what world does that make sense?

In a highly wired, brutally competitive and massively trust-deficient society it’s actually faintly ridiculous to assign the phenomena of hacking as a whole to Dr Evil of the PLA and his army of cyberminions.

Not what the report does, of course.

Edmundharbord

"But they never explain why the Chinese would need a young man with an MA to help them make advanced semiconductors - they'll be making mobile phones next!"

(i) Shane was not "a young man with an MA": he had a PhD, as well as an MS;
(ii) in semiconductor physics, from a world leading silicon photonics group (although he appeared to specialize in fabrication, rather than growth, based at a glance at his publication list)
(iii) Growing nitrides isn't like growing other III-Vs, much less like growing IVs.
(iv) Like John says, it was probably easier given Vecoo were going to train him how to grow on their machines in the US to have a US citizen who could travel without a visa etc.
(v) Given the well-known problems with processing nitrides (silicon processing is mature; since the photonics boom GaAs/InP processing has come a long way; GaN processing is still in its infancy. This is perhaps why they were after someone with a background in processing.

Regarding the article itself, there a bit of confusion between a layer structure and a recipe.
I don't really understand how you can "train someone how to grow GaN HEMTs" without "telling them the recipe".

a3t

I'm not questioning that the work being done was advanced and that he was an expert. It's just that the article seems full of assumptions that would only make sense if you start from the premise that Sinister Inscrutable Foreigners will stop at nothing in their thirst for power.

Alex

The Chinese certainly make mobile phones, but they tend to have a lot of Taiwanese/Japanese/American/South Korean/European silicon in them. The iPhone CPU is Apple's design based on ARM's, made by Samsung in Austin, TX.

I've read the FT thing and I'm not impressed, but then I'm on Huawei's list of analysts to be nice to so WHO CAN YOU TRUST?

Note: they mention that the Intelligence and Security Committee will be publishing a report but not that the GCHQ Communications-Electronics Security Group was called in both when BT wanted to buy their stuff and also when EE did, and was satisfied. I think CESG far more serious than the ISC, a group of dull old pols without specialist knowledge whose report is censored by the prime minister.

Regarding APT, I think this is just a confusion between a descriptive term and a name; the first thing they called the "advanced, persistent threat" was sourced to China, and ever since the ideas have been linked.

That said, I can remember when people said things like "we know it's the PLA, because they're in Guangdong and there are a lot of PLA units there" - yes, there are a lot of people there, and at the time most of China's cable landings. I would think the forensics are better now.

Alex

Also, Beijing used to be the biggest concentration of compromised Windows machines in the world. It isn't totally crazy to think someone else might be involved, whether by recruiting there or just by deploying code they developed elsewhere to a Chinese botnet.

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