Insightful newsletter of Drishtikone: Issue #203 – Fang and Bahamut
A Chinese operative infiltrated teams of Councilmembers and Congressmen and women and seduced a Mayor, in an embarrassing case. Also there is a rise in hackers-on-hire. Wild West of Espionage!
“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke” ― Vincent Van Gogh
To know an organism you need to understand how its atoms and cells work. To understand a society, one needs to master the interactions and individuals who are driving the country at the grassroots.
Espionage agencies do the same. They get granular and build their databases and do the analysis to understand the strengths and fault-lines so they could be harnessed when needed. For example, in India, the evangelicals - seeded by the Freedom of Religion Act of Bush junior era - have been running a Joshua project that goes across all denominations. The aim is to take over India by converting. They work and collect information at the most granular level by ZIP code! Here is a broad sample of data they have gathered and made public. Obviously much deeper data would be on their servers. (Source)
The reason why they have broken the population down to “People’s Groups” is to use the caste/class/ritual fault lines. Here is a quick dashboard of their progress.
But now, the Chinese are doing to the Americans what Americans have done with other nations and societies. However, there is a twist which will impact Indians in the US and India as well. Why? Because they are looking at US politics from geopolitical standpoint in the Asian theater as well. Let us look at the details.
espionage that starts at local level
In yet another operation, this time in the United States, a Chinese spy operation has come to light. It was in execution between 2011 and 2015, although its impact in terms of “Influence Operations” may have spanned well into Trump years.
In a major expose, the magazine Axios came out with a report where it shared how one Chinese operative known as Fang Fang or Christine Fang had targeted American politicians at all levels. (Source)
Why is this important for us? Because this lady Christine Fang had tried to infiltrate the campaign teams of many Congressmen and women who have some link to India and Hindus.
For example - Ro Khanna.
She volunteered for Ro Khanna's unsuccessful 2014 House bid, according to a former campus organizer and social media posts. (Khanna, a Democrat, was elected to the House in 2016.) Khanna's office said he remembers seeing Fang at several Indian American political gatherings but did not have further contact with her. Khanna's office said the FBI did not brief him on her activities. Khanna's 2014 campaign staff said that Fang's name does not appear in their staff records, though they said that their records do not include all volunteers. (Source)
It is important to note, that even though Ro Khanna lost in 2014, he won the seat in 2016.
That she was embedded into the teams of Eric Swalwell and Ro Khanna is important because that could give us an indication of how their politics may have been directed.
The alleged spy was an Eric Swalwell fundraiser and Ro Khanna volunteer, but some Midwestern mayors are likely more nervous because the FBI has footage of her having sex with them. (Source)
It is the age-old honey-trapping technique that she used to her advantage. The bummer was that the FBI caught it all on tape. When the mayor, surprised at her interest, asked her why she was into her. ‘To improve her English’, she replied. Sure.
US officials know of at least two mayors who had romantic relationships with Fang, likely now in her late 30s or early 40s, for about three years, the site said. The accused spy had sex with an Ohio mayor in a car, an incident caught on FBI electronic surveillance, an intelligence official said. The mayor asked Fang at one point why she was into him, and she allegedly replied that she needed to improve her English. (Source)
Christine Fang had relationships with not just politicians like Ro Khanna and Eric Swalwell, but also Congresswoman Judy Chu.
Isn’t it interesting that after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, a few Congressmen and women wrote a letter to the US ambassador at UN complaining about Indian action in Kashmir?
Two of those who backed that were - Judy Chu and Eric Swalwell. Coincidence?
Encouraged by recent reports that the Indian government has started lifting restrictions in Kashmir, the lawmakers in a recent letter to Kelly Craft, the US Ambassador to the UN, expressed concern with the recent activity in the Kashmir region amid increasing tensions between India and Pakistan. "Maintaining peace and stability in this region is a matter of global security," said the letter dated September 23. Among others, the letter has been signed by Congressman Jim Banks, Greg Pence, Susan Wild, David Trone, Eric Swalwell, Gwen Moore, Judy Chu, Mike Levin, and Ron Wright. (Source)
She also tried to insert herself within the fund-raising campaigns for Tulsi Gabbard.
Tulsi Gabbard does not remember Fang.
Gabbard "has no recollection of ever meeting or talking with her, nor any recollection of her playing a major role at the fundraiser," a spokesperson said in an email to Axios (Source)
What she might have done while Fang was trying to hobnob with some of these politicians can be anybody’s guess. But it could also be to find information and infiltrate in teams of some of them to compromise it if that may be against the interests and politics of CCP.
Tulsi was the favorite of many Indians, specifically Hindus. And, then there was Fremont Councilmember Raj Salwan.
What one finds incredible is that this woman targeted everyone from mayors to councilmembers to Congressmen and women - in an attempt to create an espionage network of her own. An operation, where she was honey trapping some local politicians by having sex with them.
In some cases, it is possible that Fang did not even do any hard spying in the US. Yet. But the idea was to sow seeds that may bear fruit later someday.
The efforts were to try and sow seeds that might take years to bear fruit, Axios reported. While U.S. officials don’t believe Fang obtained or passed on classified information, the case “was a big deal, because there were some really, really sensitive people that were caught up,” in the intelligence network, a current senior U.S. intelligence official told the news organization. (Source)
That it is something serious and much larger than just one woman seems intuitively obvious. At the very least, there is a cause for suspicion on those who were closely in touch with her. Specifically men. Because ‘honey-trapping’ was her way.
But, the Democratic leadership, known to brush aside any inconvenient truth about their leaders who have been compromised by the Chinese, did an encore here as well.
And, that is how the US is being compromised big time by the Democrats and those who are doing it are looking at attacking many other targets around the world. For Indians, it is instructive to realize that the local politics and geopolitics has been globalized now. Indian laws, elections, and violent plans are no longer confined to India. They are being leveraged and used as even the reason to target the Hindu community, proud of their Dharmic heritage in the US. The fight for our survival and well-being is complex.
Arab fish that is phishing for hacking
In the old Arab lore, Bahamut is a legendary fish that carries a giant bull (Kuyuta) on its back, and on the green hyacinth, slab stands an earth-bearing angel. Recently, however, this has been adopted as the nickname by a hacking-for-hire group. The group - Bahamut - has been “responsible for dozens of malicious applications that have been available in Google’s Play Store and Apple’s iOS marketplace, according to the BlackBerry research.” (Source)
These applications have been used to track and do surveillance on targets in Middle East and South Asia.
Bahamut’s targets could offer some clues about its clientele. Bahamut has targeted government entities in the United Arab Emirates, Pakistani military officials, Sikh separatists in India, Indian business executives, and Saudi Arabian diplomats, according to a Reuters investigation. The independent journalism outlet Bellingcat also examined Bahamut’s activities in 2017. (Source)
Generally, such hackers are available on hire and used by many scammers or even states for their work.
This is what makes this particular hacker interesting. It has multi-lingual capabilities and targets - with an almost similar arsenal, seemingly random actors.
Two features stand out within these phishing pages. First, Bahamut is a multi-lingual actor, although an imperfect one. Samples of attempts were observed in English, Arabic and Persian, with two-letter language codes passed as parameters to the phishing site to tailor the page to the victim. Based on adjusting these parameters, there was no indication that other languages – not even regional languages such as Turkish, Hebrew, Kurdish, or Urdu – were supported on the phishing pages, let alone French or other international languages. (Source)
The people they have targeted don’t seem to have any connections. And, that is what makes one think that they are hackers-on-hire.
In one instance, in late April 2017, Bahamut appears to have impersonated a Google News alert for an article about Middle Eastern government support for Donald Trump as a lure targeting Anwar Gargash, the U.A.E. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (screenshot inline from an attempt against Gargash that we observed, which also aligns with our BBC notice). At the same time with the same infrastructure, the false notice about the application Truecaller was used to target a relative of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a Saudi college student, two Iranian dissidents, and the head of an Emirati think tank. (Source)
This is the group that is also targeting the Sikh separatists.
market corner - 10 quick bytes
S&P improves India’s growth forecast for FY21; says, the country is recovering faster than expected - more
A relentless torrent of funds rushing into India’s markets may hit RBI's delicate balancing act in 2021, which tried to cap currency gains, as this has boosted rupee liquidity in a banking system that’s already flush with cash from the RBI’s stimulus measures - more
Indian refineries importing gold dore (impure gold) is a process wrought with money laundering risks - says India Gold Policy Centre (IGPC). Proper due diligence verifications about the source of impure gold, which is not the case at present - more
Domestic cooking gas prices raised, a cylinder in Delhi to cost ₹50 more - more
Diwali sales: Products of khadi, village industries boom 300% in order value from the year-ago season - more
India will grow to be among the top three economies in the world in the next two decades and per capita income would more than double, says Mukesh Ambani - more
Instagram CEO says that his platform has 'grown an immense amount' in India over the last year or two and the platform will continue to focus on India as it is quickly becoming one of its most important markets worldwide - more
Container shortage in India due to the uneven import-export scenario is taking costs through the roof for both, shipping lines as well as the importers and exporters - more
How online gaming industry attracted money and eyeballs in 2020; raked in $173 million in investments / India’s over 300 million gamers recorded a 45-60% increase in time spent during the lockdown - more
India and the U.S. are the two most investor-friendly markets in the world in terms of best practice for portfolio disclosure, while Australia ranks at the bottom, according to a global study by Morningstar Inc. - more
BKU calls off protest: BKU leaders call off their protest, Chilla border to remain shut. Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that leaders of Bharatiya Kisan Union met him at Krishi Bhavan and expressed their support to farm laws. (Source)
Nation loses Rs 3500 crores a day from Farm “protests”: A daily loss of Rs 3,000 crores to Rs 3,500 crores is resulting in economies of the region from the value chain and transport disruption because of protests, according to ASSOCHAM rough estimates. (Source)
Rebuilding what they destroyed: Surrendered Maoists have rebuilt a school they had demolished twice in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada. The school lay abandoned after being razed by rebels in 2008 and 2015, but is now ready to welcome students, freshly painted yellow, pink and green. The guilt-ridden Maoists, who built it brick by brick, had made this their first mission as part of being accepted back in the mainstream. The next step is to rebuild roads, they say.
Chettinad Group IT raid: The Income Tax department has detected tax evasion worth over Rs 700 crore after it raided multiple locations of a Chennai-based business conglomerate from December 9 onwards. A source in the I-T department said that the teams raided the Chettinad Group of companies. The raids covered 60 premises in Chennai, Trichy, Coimbatore, and states including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. (Source)
China spying on Americans via Caribbean telecom: China appears to have used mobile phone networks in the Caribbean to surveil US mobile phone subscribers as part of its espionage campaign against Americans, according to a mobile network security expert who has analysed sensitive signals data. The findings paint an alarming picture of how China has allegedly exploited decades-old vulnerabilities in the global telecommunications network to route “active” surveillance attacks through telecoms operators. (Source)
Long distance face recognition via drones?: Intelligence and military researchers want to merge facial recognition with other biometric methods to identify people from long distances and steep angles using drones. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or IARPA, issued a broad agency announcement solicitation for its latest attempt to improve biometrics at range, the Biometric Recognition and Identification at Altitude and Range, or BRIAR, program. (Source)
Pakistani perspective on Indian events
In US, for over a decade, I would read three Pakistani newspapers daily and listen to the local Pakistani radio stations - who would discuss politics from their perspective. Amongst those was also one guy in Houston called Rehan Siddiqui, who was later blacklisted by Modi government. It was important to understand the Pakistani mind. It helps us to know how they think and why. We can use that to predict the future.
It is with a view to that that I have watched their TV shows on Youtube. From Moeed Peerzada (in this video as well) to Ejaz Haider to Hassan Nisar - they were quite impartial and even honest for long. But in the last 5 years or so, they have changed their tune as well. Here they are discussing the visit of Indian Army chief General Narvane to Saudi Arabia. No one in the Indian media has talked about this, but if you have been watching the Pakistani media you will realize that they have been strongly rattled.
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