One man and his lasers

Article 1 left some tantalizing breadcrumbs about the manager of our main character organization from this article series, Wuhan Xiaoruizhi. ‘What is he up to?’ We hear you cry. ‘And what is up with all the lasers?’

So, without further ado. Introducing: Deng Zhiyong.

Deng at surface glance is the manager and CEO of Wuhan Xiaoruizhi Science and Technology. As a reminder, this is a supposed information/network security company which recruits linguists and hackers for tasks including big data analysis, based in Wuhan Optics Valley.

A deeper dive reveals that Deng also serves or has served on the Board of Directors of a number of companies including Wuhan Laser Power Supply Technology LLC, and Wuhan Technology Innovation Facilitation Center. Furthermore, he holds official titles in three Chinese-government affiliated organizations: Director of the Foreign Exchange Center, Ministry of Science and Technology China; Director of the Hubei Wuhan China/Russian Technologic Cooperation Center, and Chief of the Department of Steelworks Management Administration, Dongxi, Wuhan. We have one busy man on our hands. 

As our research continued, a clearer picture of Deng began to emerge. In particular, his side hustle as one of Wuhan’s foremost laser-related experts. Most of the companies where he sits on the board and the government departments he serves have some kind of laser-flavor. Deng is also one of the official representatives of Optics Valley, a geographical area of Wuhan which specializes in ‘opto-electronics’.  Below is Deng at the 9th International Laser Summit of Optics Valley of China. 

Within his laser-related activities, Deng seems to be most at ease in his role as the director of the Hubei Wuhan China/Russian Technological Cooperation Center. Numerous articles and images show him hosting delegations from the Russian Laser association, visiting Russian laser companies, and patenting joint inventions of laser technology alongside Russian scientists.  

But this is not all. Fascinating open source trade data demonstrates that Wuhan Xiaoruizhi exported a number of shipments of laser technology to Russian laser production firms during 2016 and 2017.

At team I-T this information has generated quite a few questions. Props to Deng for his scientific achievements, but how on earth does he have time for all this extra-curricular activity? What do lasers have to do with ‘network security’ and hacking? With registered capital of only RMB250,000 (USD 36,000) Xiaoruizhi can hardly claim to be big enough to be doing both. If Xiaoruizhi is a front company, why is it buying and selling real lasers with real money? 

We let our imaginations run riot pondering these questions. Could it be that Deng, as the boss of a front company, doesn’t have a real job, and so is free to pursue his laser-related dreams using Xiaoruizhi funds? Could Deng have been co-opted by the MSS while running an initially legitimate laser company and forced to turn it into an APT shell? Or could it be that Wuhan Xiaoruizhi and Deng himself serve as the front for a separate strand of Chinese government activity…cozying up to Russian laser experts for the purposes of Chinese S&T advantage.

The latter point reminds us of something we read recently……..

Now, of course, we have no proof here. But given Xiaoruizhi’s links to a number of MSS officers and the government links of its employees and Deng himself this is not beyond the realms of possibility.

Regardless of whether or not Deng is really spying on Russia, surely his position as effectively Wuhan’s laser envoy to Russia is somewhat undermined by the reported activity of APT31, which sat under his command (on paper at least) at Xiaoruizhi: 

Perhaps it is a case of Deng and APT31 keeping their friends close but their enemies closer. Or perhaps Deng’s influence was the only thing stopping APT31 spying on Russia previously and since breaking free to new front companies the group has had free rein. And perhaps we will never know. One thing is for sure though, there are sure to be more secrets hiding under the metaphorical rock of Wuhan Xiaoruizhi Science and Technology than we have been able to tackle in this series. If you have anything to add to this or any part of our investigation, or to kick off a new one, please do get in touch. Our doors (inboxes) are always open to tips. 

For now, though, friends of I-T, this is where we will leave you, until our next big investigation at least. It’s been a blast. Until next time.

Article Link: One man and his lasers – Intrusion Truth