China’s Hackers to Target U.S. Entertainment Industry, Security Firm Warns

China raises red flag on online

Soft power strategy makes film biz a target for spying, says cybersecurity firm

A new report from cybersecurity firm FireEye warns that the U.S. film and entertainment industries could come under cyberattack from Chinese hackers intent on undermining companies’  content, technology and internal communications.

China’s Soft Power Strategy and Cyber Intrusions: What Hollywood Should Know,” due to be officially published next week, posits that Chinese authorities see U.S. domination of filmed entertainment as a strategic advantage for America, and want that advantage for China.

We judge that links between China’s soft power strategy (in this case, their cultural means of influence) and its designation of ‘creative industries’ as strategic, provides the motivation for groups to commit cyber espionage,” says the report.

Of course, FireEye sells threat protection and stands to gain financially if the entertainment industry invests in cyber-security.

But cybersecurity expert Hemanshu Nigam, founder of SSP Blue, says China’s cyber threat to the entertainment industry is already well known. “When your’e doing business with a country or company that has very different beliefs than the American value system, there’s always a chance this kind of thing can happen,” Nigam told Variety.

Both economic and political motives will drive China to target the entertainment industry for hacking, says the report. That could range from hacking executives’ emails for business intelligence to stealing expertise and technology to interfering with productions the Chinese authorities disapprove of. It even warns that there could be insiders planted within Hollywood companies to identify and monitor “entities or individuals China can consider threatening or friendly to its soft power interests.”

The FireEye report cites a the example of a U.S. documentary crew shooting “a small documentary about Tibet” called “State of Control.” The production suffered “persistent cyber disruptions” that reportedly included “cell phone surveillance, exploited laptops, data destruction and website malfunctions.”

FireEye’s assessment assumes that China’s own entertainment industry will do the bidding of the government. In fact, while Chinese authorities are are interested in exporting entertainment to the world as a way of building soft power, Chinese producers have been interested in the escalating profits from films targeted at China’s fast-growing domestic market. As a result, Chinese pictures generally don’t travel well.

Nigam warned that there is growing danger of content theft as more and more content is put online. “China has shown itself to be a haven for pirates and a huge marketplace for piracy,” said Nigam. “It’s not a new area but it will continue to grow because of the interconnectedness of the world and because people in China will look for ways to hack, attack and steal.”

Nigam argues that stronger government-to-government interactions are vital to controlling that problem. “There’s a feeling in the hacker community that ‘We can do this, we can get away with this. Who can do anything about it?'”

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  1. harry georgatos says:

    Content was always going to be a question with China being welcomed within Hollywood. Michael Mann’s cyber-thriller CYBER is an American China co-production which must have met approval with Chinese rulers. I’ll reserve my opinion once I see the final film. The more in-bed Hollywood gets with China I suspect Chinese sleepers will infiltrated the main studios in influencing content. Films and storyteller’s will be compromised for the sake of huge returns that is the bottomless abyss of Chinese currency. For better or worse at the end of the day it comes down to the bottom line.

  2. johntshea says:

    So all these experts accuse the Chinese government of sabotaging Hollywood? A matter for the US government so, and particularly, and ironically, the NSA.

  3. nypbbob says:

    Executives with Funn Networks reached out to many in the entertainment industry regarding these threats nearly 8 months ago. Truth be told, the concern wasn’t a “priority.”

    One specific threat is a stealth app being installed on the computers of unsuspecting folks who are visiting Chinese territories. As soon as somebody logs onto a hot spot or gains internet access in these territories, the app is then unsuspectingly loaded on to computers, cell phones and tablets. The purpose of this app is to rip content from a users device while they are watching content through services such as Hulu, Comcast, Ultra Violet, You Tube, etc.. This intention is clear— circumvent the anti-piracy methods employed by governmental agencies around the world, including the FBI and MPAA, etc…

    This problem will grow and will indeed threaten the measures currently in place to curb piracy and the circumvention of content without proper payment for use. We know that Funn has made this priority, and is currently developing a measure which will stomp these efforts by the time they launch later this year. Its just a shame not many others are following suit.

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