Today, Mandiant published new research about a Pro-PRC influence campaign, called DRAGONBRIDGE, which is targeting rare earths mining companies in the US, Canada and Australia:
- Lynas Rare Earths Ltd, the world’s largest rare earths mining/processing company, based in Australia (In 2021, the U.S. Department of Defense signed an agreement with Lynas, to construct a Texas processing facility)
- USA Rare Earth, a rare earths manufacturing company based in the US
- Appia Rare Earths & Uranium Corp, based in Canada
Since rare earth mineral mining is of strategic significance to the PRC, and these entities are challenging the PRC’s global market dominance in that industry, Mandiant’s experts believe DRAGONBRIDGE is targeting this sector to help maintain its advantage.
Mandiant also highlights that DRAGONBRIDGE’s use of microtargeting audiences and leveraging criticism by real individuals to support its narratives and agenda is a clear example of this group becoming incrementally more sophisticated with its tactics. This is the same group that Mandiant uncovered was conducting IO campaigns in Ukraine (i.e. fake biolabs messaging), as well as the same group that tried to incite protests in the US in 2021 around COVID mandates.
John Hultquist, VP of Mandiant Intelligence, said of the attacks:
“The private sector is now the victim of attacks by Chinese information operations which is growing increasingly aggressive.
Information operations are typically a problem for civil society, governments, and platforms. They rarely target the private sector so directly and aggressively. This is a well-resourced campaign that’s grown significantly in size and scope compared to its recent activity in Ukraine.
We have been waiting for activity like this for some time.
Businesses may soon be facing a new risk from state actors with significant resources that could undermine their most important efforts, exacerbate political hurdles they face, and degrade their brand. While this threat shares similar origins to the cyber espionage problem businesses are already contending with, it will have entirely different effects and requires very different solutions.
An economic decoupling with China will only encourage more victimisation of the private sector by Chinese actors. Unfortunately businesses will be on the front lines of a fight that may not be fair.”