Ministry of State Security

The MSS, or Ministry of State Security, serves as a combination FBI/CIA for the People's Republic of China. Please note this definition is not 1:1. It should only be interpreted as a rough metaphor.

The MSS dates back to 1983. A massive RIF of the PLA (People's Liberation Army) led to 500,000 soldiers being dismissed alongside the Signals Intelligence being handed off from the Army to the newly created MSS. Interestingly, it was this reduction in force that led to former PLA colonel (and founder of Huawei) Ren Zhengfei being forced to seek better fortunes in the commercial world of Shenzhen.

By the mid-1990s, capitalism was beginning to take a feverish hold on China.  Around the same time, with the inflation of the Dot Com bubble, the MSS reconstituted itself (or at least part of itself), in the form of several front companies. Today, these companies number in the dozens, and it is hard to call some of the front companies as their detection might prove challenging, save for a few key staff positions. It should be noted that the MSS is further subdivided into various constituent groups. For instance, the Shanghai State Security Bureau serves as the main party for the North American intelligence collection.

Listed below are some of the original "front companies." This group, which dates from roughly from 1995-2001, is what I refer to as "The Sinister Six (stemming from China's pattern of naming groups in such a fashion as  "The Eight Guardians" or the "The Special Four"):"

  • InFocus
  • Venustech
  • SANGFOR
  • TOP-SEC
  • H3C
  • Netsurion

In subsequent posts we will dive into each and what we know about them. We will begin with NSFocus, founded by the original members of China's earliest hacking group, The Green Army.