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A Chinese espionage group appears to have hacked 10 international cellphone providers to track calling data on 20 dissidents, military officials, spies and law enforcement agents, according to a report from the cybersecurity firm Cybereason reported on in the Wall Street Journal.

Why it matters: Though we don't have any details on who the victims are or exactly why they were targeted, China could potentially use tracked phone records to tell if a highly placed individual was another country's intelligence asset or follow the movements of an activist.

Details: The campaign, which Cybereason has dubbed "Operation Soft Cell," did not appear to have targeted any U.S. carriers.

  • Cybereason believes this to be the work of a group known as APT10 due to the hackers following that group's playbook and using the same tools as the group has in the past.
  • While APT10 — also known as Cloud Hopper — had an overwhelming amount of access to carrier networks, the goal appears to have been to steal data.

Context: Cybereason became aware of the campaign in 2018, when it helped a carrier fend off multiple waves of hacking from the group.

  • China is no stranger to monitoring communications providers to harvest details on individuals it sees as a risk. In 2010, the country is believed to have hacked Google to monitor the activity of human rights activists on the platform.

Go deeper: Cracking a Chinese spy case

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.