New Material for the Critical Infrastructures Debate: China Estimated to Target Hollywood

On Wednesday, the LA Times reported on information security company Mandiant’s outlook, due to which Hollywood may become the next target for Chinese state-sponsored hacking. Due to the news outlet, the cited report (according to my research not yet released) identified at least one hack into a major entertainment company, which it traced back to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The attackers reportedly stole executive email correspondence containing business intelligence with regards to “ongoing negotiations between the company and China on major new investments and expansion into the country.”

The Background

Mandiant has come to public attention after it released a report that exposed an enterprise-scale computer espionage campaign that stole vast quantities of information from organizations all around the world over the course of several years. Evidence provided by that report linked the operation of a group called APT1 to “China’s  2nd Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff Department’s (GSD) 3rd Department (Military Cover Designator 61398).” 

The Outlook

According to the LA Times, Mandiant attributes the recent attack at “a leading U.S. entertainment conglomerate that produces and distributes creative properties worldwide” to the very same unit of the PLA. Correspondingly, so the report, “Mandiant has observed high rates of China-based cyber intrusions against industries that China’s state authorities consider strategic.” It was further stated that, now, entertainment does not seem to be different. As a result, Mandiant expects “China to increasingly target the film and entertainment industry.” 

The article said the Mandiant report found the reasons for the expected targeting at Hollywood to be political and economic:

On the economic side, China has made a number of moves to invest in greater amounts of film production. To compete against U.S. companies, Chinese firms will need intellectual property as well as strategic information to give it more leverage for things like distribution.

On the political side, China’s Communist Party wants to stay on top of stories or films being developed that might affect the country’s image.

 

Mandiant’s recent observations seem to repeat, so the LA Times, what has been observed in Chinese politics before:

Over time […] China has developed a pattern of identifying major industries as being critically important and then launching cyber campaigns abroad to disrupt competitors and obtain intellectual property.

 

Final Note

Commercial facilities, including entertainment (e.g. motion picture studios) and media outlets, are an official critical infrastructure sector, and part of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) sector-specific protection assignment. Although, in my eyes, the scale of any future cyber operations against Hollywood will hardly trigger a situation that calls for  the military, the LA Times piece reminded me in the jurisdictional discussion on CYBERCOM and its assigned responsibilities:

The only critical infrastructure sector under the watch of the department of defense (DoD) is the defense industrial base. Nonetheless, in a February hearing before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, STRATCOM leader Admiral Haney (STRATCOM is superordinate to CYBERCOM) elaborated on his cyberspace priorities, which seem to be – potentially – adaptable to a wider range of critical infrastructures:

Cyberspace operations extensively support all of my other mission areas and there are significant negative impacts if that support becomes uncertain. Along with the need to protect U.S. critical infrastructure and intellectual property, information assurance is a critical facet of national power that underpins our ability to identify national security risks and to hold those threats in check. [p.6] 

 

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Authors

Untitled Document
Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography

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