|Bid||16.90 x 4000|
|Ask||17.07 x 1400|
|Day's range||16.90 - 17.11|
|52-week range||12.66 - 20.51|
|Beta (3Y monthly)||0.97|
|PE ratio (TTM)||N/A|
|Earnings date||4 Feb 2020 - 10 Feb 2020|
|Forward dividend & yield||N/A (N/A)|
|1y target est||18.20|
(Bloomberg) -- Just months after Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. said they had removed hundreds of accounts used to undermine Hong Kong’s protest movement, the social media trolls are back.Researchers, including at the startup Astroscreen, have identified suspicious accounts that suggest take downs in August didn’t stop online activity targeting the protesters. Instead, some accounts with suspected links to the Chinese government that were removed have been replaced by different ones, engaging in similar types of tactics, the researchers said.The findings highlight challenges Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube face in trying to dismantle disinformation campaigns that operate through their platforms. They also underscore growing concerns about governments and other political actors using social media platforms to sway popular opinion or silence their critics.“This arms race between platforms and malign actors isn’t going away,” said Jacob Wallis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre, who authored a report on the matter in September. “Hyper-connectivity creates vulnerabilities that actors with various motivations will continue to exploit.”Social media companies said they are working to curb campaigns to spread disinformation. Facebook is cooperating with other tech companies and security researchers to remove manipulation campaigns from its platforms, a spokeswoman said. A Twitter spokeswoman said platform manipulation has no place on its service, and the company will take enforcement action to stop it.But keeping disinformation off platforms is proving no small task. Twitter said in August it had suspended 936 accounts linked to a China-backed operation, as well as a network of 200,000 other accounts. Facebook and YouTube announced similar moves the same month.Still, researchers from Astroscreen, as well as Nisos Inc., FireEye Inc. and Graphika Inc., have found evidence suggesting that digital activity targeting the Hong Kong protests continued after the removals. They cautioned that gauging the scope of any kind of apparently coordinated, inauthentic activity -- and tying it to China or any other entity -- is difficult without additional data like IP addresses, which social media companies generally don’t disclose. While accounts may appear suspicious, it doesn’t mean they are controlled by any specific actor, such as a state.In response to a request for comment, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred to an earlier statement by the Cyberspace Administration of China criticizing U.S. social media companies’ previous take downs as censorship.Astroscreen, a London startup that monitors social media manipulation, studied what it considered suspicious activity on Twitter. It analyzed 30,000 Twitter accounts that were against the protesters in Hong Kong and found that a third were created between August and October.The recently-created accounts tend to follow a similar pattern, said Donara Barojan, who runs Astroscreen’s operations. Many have less than 10 followers, use a generic photo for a profile picture without providing an identity, and tweet primarily about the protests. Many post in English in an apparent bid to sway global opinion, she said. The accounts purged by Twitter were typically older, automated accounts that appeared to be bought on the open market and repurposed for targeting the protests.Many of the Twitter accounts Astroscreen studied pushed Chinese state narratives, such as the idea that protesters are being paid by America or other foreign actors. The accounts use generic hashtags like HongKongProtest or HongKong to avoid detection by Twitter, and retweet official media videos or articles with added phrases that toe the Chinese state line, Barojan said.This tactic is a “way to discredit the protest movement and provide popular messaging that people around the world who are against American intervention can identify with,” Barojan said. “It creates a false consensus, a key tactic of propaganda actors.”None of the accounts highlighted in the embedded images responded to messages seeking comment. At least two have since been removed by Twitter.Researchers at cybersecurity firms Nisos and FireEye said they too found evidence that new accounts resembling the disabled accounts became active in anti-Hong Kong protest content following the August take downs.Creating new accounts is a “low cost, low risk,” move for trolls, according to Cindy Otis, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who serves as the director of analysis at Nisos. “There is no incentive for them to stop trying.”The accounts she found used tactics such as copying and pasting messages or retweeting them, and using memes and images to paint the protesters as violent, Otis said.FireEye began tracking a disinformation campaign across multiple platforms in June, said Lee Foster, a senior director at the firm. Shortly after accounts were removed from social media companies in August, Foster said he saw accounts pop up that appeared to be related to campaigns that had been removed. They engaged in the same kind of activity and mimicked the tactics used by the removed accounts -- suggesting that the people behind the information operation were not deterred, he said.In a separate example following the social media take downs in August, Graphika, a company that uses artificial intelligence to map and analyze information on social media, found a spam network intermittently posting anti-Hong Kong protest material across YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, said Ben Nimmo, the company’s director of investigations.Protesters aren’t the only target. Apple Inc. initially took heat from anti-protest accounts for allowing an app that tracked police whereabouts into its App Store. When the company changed course and removed it, Apple was targeted by protest supporters. A similar attack was waged against the NBA after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey posted a since deleted tweet in support of the protests, according to Astroscreen’s Twitter study. Over the course of 12 hours following his tweet, Morey was mentioned in more than 16,000 tweets, according to Graphika’s Nimmo.Most were direct replies to Morey and many contained disparaging responses including the letters NMSL, Chinese internet slang for “your mother is dead.” Morey and the NBA didn’t respond to requests for comment. Morey has said he didn’t intend to cause any offense.\--With assistance from Qian Ye.To contact the reporters on this story: Shelly Banjo in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org;Alyza Sebenius in Washington at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at firstname.lastname@example.org, Andrew MartinFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- A state-linked Chinese hacking group is using malware to steal SMS text messages from high-ranking military and government targets, according to cybersecurity company FireEye Inc.The hacking technology, known as MESSAGETAP, “allows China to efficiently steal data from multitudes of sources from one location,” Steven Stone, FireEye’s director of advanced practices, said in a statement. “Espionage-related theft and intrusions have been long occurring, but what is new is the vast scale due to the use of this tool.”The company’s finding, released in a blog on Thursday, underscores the growing concerns about China’s use of technology for espionage and the theft of intellectual property. Telecommunications pose a special concern, as the U.S. seeks to persuade its allies not to build their next-generation networks with tools from Chinese companies such as Huawei Technologies Co.But even in networks that China hasn’t built, sophisticated hacking operations might allow access to data. In 2019 alone, FireEye observed eight attempts to target telecommunications entities by groups with suspected links to the Chinese government. Four of these hacking attempts were conducted by the group known as APT41 that is now using MESSAGETAP.APT41 began “state-sponsored cyber-espionage missions as well as financially motivated intrusions” as early as 2012, FireEye said. But the cybersecurity company said it discovered the use of MESSAGETAP only this year while probing a hack of a telecommunications network provider.“During this intrusion, thousands of phone numbers were targeted, to include several high-ranking foreign individuals likely of interest to China,” Stone said in the statement. “Any SMS containing keywords from a pre-defined list such as the names of political leaders, military and intelligence organizations and political movements at odds with the Chinese government were also stolen.”Even though FireEye has detected the use of MESSAGETAP by China-linked hackers, it is difficult to defend against the malware. “There are virtually no actions that a user can take to protect these messages on their devices or even gain awareness to this activity,” FireEye said in the statement.To contact the reporter on this story: Alyza Sebenius in Washington at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org, Andrew Pollack, Dan ReichlFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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(Bloomberg) -- An Iranian-government linked group of computer hackers tried to infiltrate email accounts of a U.S. presidential campaign, current and former U.S. officials and journalists, among others, Microsoft Corp. said.Four accounts, though none connected to the unnamed presidential campaign or the current and former U.S. government officials, were “compromised” by the group, called Phosphorus, Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president for customer security & trust, said Friday in a blog post.The attacks took place “in a 30-day period between August and September,” Burt said in the post. Phosphorous made “more than 2,700 attempts to identify consumer email accounts belonging to specific Microsoft customers and then attack 241 of those accounts,” he said. “The targeted accounts are associated with a U.S. presidential campaign, current and former U.S. government officials, journalists covering global politics and prominent Iranians living outside Iran.”Microsoft’s announcement comes as the presidential campaign heats up amid concerns the 2020 election faces the same dangers as the Russian hacking and social-media effort in 2016.“While the attacks we’re disclosing today were not technically sophisticated, they attempted to use a significant amount of personal information both to identify the accounts belonging to their intended targets and in a few cases to attempt attacks,” Burt said in the post. “This effort suggests Phosphorous is highly motivated and willing to invest significant time and resources engaging in research and other means of information gathering.”Reuters and the New York Times reported that President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign was targeted in an attack by Iranian hackers, citing people familiar with the issue. “We have no indication that any of our campaign infrastructure was targeted,” Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications director, said in a statement to Bloomberg.Cyber-attacks during the 2016 election included the targeting of personal email. It’s unclear if the “consumer email accounts,” highlighted by Microsoft are personal or official campaign accounts that would be considered part of a campaign’s infrastructure.Spokesmen for the campaigns of Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders declined to comment. The campaign of Democrat Kamala Harris has “no indication” it was the organization referenced by Microsoft, Ian Sams, a campaign spokesman, said. Other major presidential campaigns couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.The Democratic National Committee received an alert about the cyber-attack from Microsoft and warned the campaigns of its presidential candidates, according to an email obtained by Bloomberg News. “As always, please be sure everyone in the organization has completed the DNC Device and Account Security Checklist and that your organization is incorporating our top 10 list for running an effective security program,” the committee wrote in its email.The campaigns were asked to tell the DNC if they “have seen any trace of this actor” so the committee could track investigations into the hack.The Phosphorous group has previously targeted dissidents, activists, the defense industry, journalists and government employees in the U.S. and Middle East, according to Microsoft. The company announced in March it had taken successful court action against Phosphorous and seized 99 websites from the hackers, preventing them from using the pages for cyber-operations.Cybersecurity company FireEye Inc. has seen a spike in Phosphorous activity in the U.S. and Middle East since the summer, said John Hultquist, the company’s director of intelligence and analysis.“While we suspect that a lot of this activity is about collecting intelligence, Iran has a history of carrying out destructive attacks,” Hultquist said. Phosphorous, known by FireEye as APT 35, is “one of a handful of Iranian actors that we’ve seen actively carrying out large scale, noisy intrusion attempts,” which have taken place in countries including the U.S., Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, he said.In July, Microsoft announced it had countered almost 10,000 hacks globally stemming from state-sponsored attacks in the previous 12 months. The effort included hundreds of attacks on democracy-focused groups, particularly non-governmental organizations and think tanks, which were mostly based in the U.S., the company said.Later that month, the Senate Intelligence Committee reported that Russia engaged in “extensive” efforts to manipulate elections systems throughout the U.S. from 2014 through “at least 2017.” And a Trump administration official said in June that Russia, China, and Iran are already trying to manipulate U.S. public opinion before 2020.(Updates with comments from Trump campaign in the sixth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Dina Bass, Tyler Pager, Sahil Kapur and Emma Kinery.To contact the reporter on this story: Alyza Sebenius in Washington at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org, Andrew Pollack, Molly SchuetzFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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