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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Researchers have discovered new “highly malleable, highly sophisticated” malware from a state-backed Chinese hacker group, according to Palo Alto Network’s Unit 42 threat intelligence team.

Why it matters: The malware “stands in a class of its own in terms of being one of the most sophisticated, well-engineered and difficult-to-detect samples of shellcode employed by an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT),” according to Unit 42.

  • The malware, which Unit 42 has dubbed “BendyBear,” bears some resemblance to the “WaterBear malware family” (hence the bear in the name), which has been associated with BlackTech, a state-linked Chinese cyber spy group, writes Unit 42.

Background: BlackTech has been active since at least 2013, according to Symantec researchers.

  • BlackTech has historically focused chiefly on intelligence targets in Taiwan, as well as some in Japan and Hong Kong.
  • The group has targeted both foreign government and private-sector entities, including in “consumer electronics, computer, healthcare, and financial industries,” said researchers with Trend Micro.
  • Trend Micro also previously assessed that BlackTech’s “campaigns are likely designed to steal their target’s technology.”

Go deeper: According to Symantec researchers, a BlackTech-initiated espionage campaign that began in 2019 also targeted “organizations in the media, construction, engineering, electronics, and finance sectors” with targets in Taiwan, Japan, the U.S. and China.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
12 mins ago - Economy & Business

How to meme a painting

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

How can a physical artwork become an NFT? One new company has just spent $12.9 million on a Banksy in an attempt to try out a new way of converting the real into the virtual.

Why it matters: The art market globally sees volume of about $60 billion per year, almost all of which is trade in physical objects. Art-world insiders including former Christie's c0-chair Loïc Gouzer are on the lookout for ways to monetize physical paintings without necessarily giving up physical ownership of them.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.