The Memo: 6—12 May 2024

The Memo from 6—12 May 2024, 2024: Summary of incidents, ranging from terrorism, covert actions, organised crimes to cybersecurity incident.

The Memo: 6—12 May 2024

In brief:

  • Motorcycle bomb in Narathiwat injures four; insurgents suspected.
  • Belgian, German police raid MEP offices in Chinese espionage probe.
  • UK defense data breach exposes risks, potential state involvement.

Terrorism and insurgency

1. Thailand

On May 6, a motorcycle rigged with explosives exploded at a checkpoint in Tha Phraya Sai, Narathiwat, injuring four people, including two defence corps volunteers and two civilian women. The blast, which caused flames and panic among locals, was believed to be the works of insurgents.

Why it matters: The explosion appears to be a deliberate attack by insurgents, aiming to disrupt peace in the area. Authorities are investigating and security measures are heightened in response to ongoing violence in Thailand’s southern border region. The recent explosions appears to be part of a series of attacks using explosives. A week earlier, another bomb exploded in Gualosira, Pasemas District, in the same province.

Covert Actions

i. Europe

Belgian and German police searched the European Parliament offices of far-right MEP Maximilian Krah and his aide, Jian Guo, as part of a Chinese espionage investigation. Germany's Federal Court of Justice had ordered the search based on suspicions of Jian Guo engaging in espionage activities for China. Jian Guo, arrested in late April, allegedly relayed information from the European Parliament to Chinese intelligence and spied on Chinese dissidents in Germany. Krah, who has not been charged, faces preliminary investigations over alleged payments from Russia and China related to his MEP duties. Despite the scandal, Krah remains the lead candidate for the Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the upcoming EU election, although he has been advised to maintain a lower profile to avoid damaging the party's campaign and reputation.

Why it matters: The number of reported espionage cases linked to China has notably risen over the past two decades, indicating that Beijing may be intensifying its focus on Europe as a central arena for its intelligence activities. This recent scandal accentuates concerns that these operations are increasingly targeting European political and industrial spheres.

Cybercrime and security breaches

i. United Kingdom

Hackers targeted a third-party payroll system used by Britain's Ministry of Defence, exposing personal details of armed forces members and veterans. The system, now offline, was separate from the ministry's network. Defence Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed suspicions of hostile state involvement without naming a specific country, highlighting increasing cyber threats to the UK. Despite heightened security concerns, the UK has not officially blamed any state but is bolstering its cyberdefenses.

Why it matters: This latest breach has heightened concerns over escalating cyberattacks from hostile states. In March, the UK and US jointly accused China of conducting a widespread malicious cyber-campaign, exposing Beijing's espionage activities. In December 2023, the National Cyber Security Centre identified Russian intelligence as responsible for cyber activities aimed at disrupting UK politics. Additionally, hackers have demanded ransoms from both public institutions and private firms. British MPs have criticised the government's mild response to China, urging a tougher stance by classifying China a national security threat. China has denied these accusations, dismissing claims of posing a threat as a distortion. The challenge in formally attributing cyberattacks often stems from the attackers' efforts to conceal their tracks and the diplomatic implications of such accusations. 

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