China-Linked Dragonbridge Campaign Ambushes Rare Earth Mining Businesses

  • By Steven
  • Jul 08, 2022

An influence campaign tied to China has zeroed in on rare earth mining businesses. The United States, Canada, and Australia were the home of most of the targetted companies. The campaign contains negative messages in an attempt to alter the ongoing dialogue in a manner that benefits China.

Which Businesses Were the Targets of the Attack?

The attack primarily zeroed in on businesses in the mining business, including USA Rare Earth, Appia Rare Earths & Uranium Corp., based in Canada, and Lynas Rare Earths Ltd, located in Australia.

Who Publicized the Attack?

The cyber security threat intelligence company Mandiant identified the threat and publicized it, providing a detailed report for public consumption. Mandiant refers to the online attack campaign as Dragonbridge. Dragonbridge zeroed in on companies within a single industry as doing so is to the benefit of China. China's overarching aim is to become a market hegemon of sorts.

How did the Compromised Businesses Respond?

The businesses harmed in the hack responded by stating the attack's goal was to spur environmental protests. After all, rare earth mining companies destroy the environment to a certain extent in an attempt to mine precious metals. The companies involved in the attack also insist the attack provides an opportunity to steer the narrative. They believe the attack directly responds to planned production or current projects. Thousands of online forums, social media platforms, and other sites worked together to dissect information about potential problems in the context of the environment, labor, and health.

One of the phony accounts appeared to be a group of citizens that supposedly joined an anti-Lynas Facebook group with more than a thousand current members. The accusation is that the mining businesses might subject residents to harmful poisoning and contamination stemming from mining activities. It is also interesting to note that English was the primary language for most of the posts. Malay and Chinese were the other languages for the posts. The posts have not proven as popular as anticipated as few people have interacted with them by giving a "like" or adding a comment.

Is This the First Attack of Its Type?

The aggressor behind the attack has ties to disinformation campaigns performed on behalf of China. Rewind to the summer of 2019, and the group's activities centered on denouncing protestors marching in favor of democracy in Hong Kong. Many also believe that the group has attempted to catalyze the formation and success of protest groups in the United States to march against coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

How Should Businesses Prepare for Similar Attacks?

Though the Dragonbridge attack is currently limited to rare earth mining businesses, it has the potential to expand to new industries and niches. Companies should continue to monitor the progression of Dragonbridge along with similar threats. The most important thing you can do now is to fortify your digital security protections, so your computers, network, and systems to prepare for all threats.

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