China, North Korea targeting elections in India, US? Microsoft warns of AI use, cryptocurrency heists


In a blog post, Microsoft cited its report on ‘Threat Intelligence insights’ to explain how China “is using fake social media accounts to poll voters on what divides them most to sow division and possibly influence the outcome of the US presidential election in its favour.”

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The Microsoft Threat Intelligence insights in the latest East Asia report were published by the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center (MTAC) on Friday.

The report said it is expected that “Chinese cyber and influence actors, and to some extent North Korean cyber actors,” will work toward targeting elections in “India, South Korea, and the United States“.

How China, North Korea might influence elections in India, US, South Korea?

1. China’s influence operation (IO) seeks perspectives on US political topics: China had allegedly begun using generative AI to create sleek and engaging visual content. The Microsoft Threat Intelligence continued to identify AI-generated memes targeting the US, it said.

The Microsoft report claimed that China increased its use of AI-generated content to further its goals around the world. The “increased use” of Chinese AI-generated content in recent months aims to “influence and sow division” in the US and elsewhere on a range of topics. Many of this topic included controversial domestic issues.

These topics include the train derailment in Kentucky in November 2023, the Maui wildfires in August 2023, the disposal of Japanese nuclear wastewater, drug use in the U.S. as well as immigration policies and racial tensions in the country.

The Microsoft analysis also mentioned the company’s September 2023 report which highlighted how Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-affiliated social media accounts began posed as Americans across the political spectrum and responded to comments from authentic users.

2. North Korea cyber operations: The report mentioned that North Korea has increased its cryptocurrency heists and supply chain attacks to fund and further its military goals and intelligence collection.

“It has also begun to use AI to make its operations more effective and efficient,” it added. This may facilitate the development of new military capabilities.

It added that North Korean threat actors are adapting to the age of AI. “They are learning to use tools powered by AI large-language models (LLM) to make their operations more efficient and effective,” the report said.

3. AI-generated contents and anchors: The Microsoft report mentions a picture in its report, claiming that it shows how Storm-1376 posted videos in Mandarin and English alleging that the United States and India were responsible for unrest in Myanmar. 

“The same AI-generated anchor is used in some of these videos appeared in a Taiwan-facing Storm-1376 campaign,” it said.

Will these tactics sway voters?

The report, however, claimed that there is little evidence these efforts have been successful in swaying opinion. “While the impact of such content in swaying audiences remains low, China’s increasing experimentation in augmenting memes, videos, and audio will continue — and may prove effective down the line,” the Microsoft report added.

China’s AI influence in Taiwan election

According to the report, China did a test run in Taiwan using AI-generated content to influence voters away from a pro-sovereignty candidate.

On Taiwan’s election day, Storm-1376 had reportedly posted an AI-generated audio clips of Foxconn owner Terry Gou, an independent Party candidate in Taiwan’s presidential race, who bowed out of the contest in November 2023.

“The audio recordings portrayed Gou’s voice endorsing another candidate in the presidential race. Gou’s voice in the recordings is likely AI generated, as Gou made no such statement,” the report added.

The general or Lok Sabha Elections in India are due in April-May, while the presidential elections in the US will be held on November 5. The national elections in South Korea will be held on April 10.

Microsoft shared a timeline that showed how China used AI influence in Taiwan election.

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Published: 06 Apr 2024, 04:50 PM IST

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