US and UK accuse China of massive hacking campaign

US and UK officials impose sweeping sanctions on Chinese persons and companies after severe allegations of a massive hacking campaign targeting high profile institutions.

Publication: 26.03.2024 - 11:44
US and UK accuse China of massive hacking campaign
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U.S. and British officials on Monday filed charges, imposed sanctions, and accused Beijing of a sweeping cyberespionage campaign that allegedly hit millions of people including lawmakers, academics and journalists, and companies including defense contractors.

Authorities on both sides of the Atlantic nicknamed the hacking group Advanced Persistent Threat 31 or "APT31", calling it an "arm of China's Ministry of State Security."

Officials reeled off a laundry list of targets: White House staffers, U.S. senators, British parliamentarians, and government officials across the world who criticized Beijing.

Few other victims were identified by name, but American officials said that the hackers' decade-plus spying spree compromised defense contractors, dissidents and a variety of U.S. companies, including American steel, energy, and apparel firms.

Among the targets were leading providers of 5G mobile telephone equipment and wireless technology. Even the spouses of senior U.S. officials and lawmakers were targeted, the officials said.

The aim of the global hacking operation was to "repress critics of the Chinese regime, compromise government institutions, and steal trade secrets," Deputy U.S. Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement.

Britain Provided Evidence

In an indictment unsealed on Monday against seven of the alleged Chinese hackers, U.S. prosecutors in court said the hacking resulted in the 'confirmed or potential compromise of work accounts, personal emails, online storage and telephone call records belonging to millions of Americans.'

Officials in London accused APT31 of hacking British lawmakers critical of China and said that a second group of Chinese spies was behind the hack of Britain's electoral watchdog that separately compromised the data of millions more people in the United Kingdom.

Chinese diplomats in Britain and the U.S. dismissed the allegations as unwarranted. The Chinese Embassy in London called the charges "completely fabricated and malicious slanders."

Chinese Response

China itself has responded to hacking allegations by the United Kingdom stating that evidence 'the country provided was insufficient,' a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry said on Tuesday. "Britain's accusation is unprofessional," the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said.

The announcements were made as both Britain and the U.S. imposed sanctions on a firm they said was a Chinese Ministry of State Security front company tied to the hacking activity.

The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said the sanctions were on Wuhan Xiaoruizhi Science and Technology, as well as on two Chinese nationals.

"Today's announcement exposes China's continuous and brash efforts to undermine our nation's cybersecurity and target Americans and our innovation," FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.

China has also begun in recent years to call out alleged Western hacking operations. For example, last year, the Ministry of State of Security claimed that the 'U.S. National Security Agency had repeatedly penetrated Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei Technologies.'


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