US and allies accuse China of ‘malicious cyber activity’

America and its mates, including the UK, have got together to denounce China’s apparent habit of indulging in state-sponsored cyber mischief.

The White House, UK government and European Union are among those who have published statements calling for China to stop corrupting cyberspace with malicious behaviour and electronic espionage. On top of that the US has charged four Chinese nationals it reckons were working on behalf of the state with industrial espionage.

“These criminal charges once again highlight that China continues to use cyber-enabled attacks to steal what other countries make, in flagrant disregard of its bilateral and multilateral commitments,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

“The breadth and duration of China’s hacking campaigns, including these efforts targeting a dozen countries across sectors ranging from healthcare and biomedical research to aviation and defense, remind us that no country or industry is safe. Today’s international condemnation shows that the world wants fair rules, where countries invest in innovation, not theft.”

Here’s what else the White House says the US and its allies have said they’re doing about the situation:

  • Exposing the PRC’s use of criminal contract hackers to conduct unsanctioned cyber operations globally, including for their own personal profit.
  • Attributing with a high degree of confidence that malicious cyber actors affiliated with PRC’s MSS conducted cyber espionage operations utilizing the zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange Server disclosed in early March 2021.
  • Imposing costs and announcing criminal charges against four MSS hackers.

“The cyber attack on Microsoft Exchange Server by Chinese state-backed groups was a reckless but familiar pattern of behaviour,” said UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. “The Chinese Government must end this systematic cyber sabotage and can expect to be held account if it does not.”

According to the allegations China has been up to this sort of thing for ages, but a combination of the growing international consensus against its dodgy behaviour and the recent Microsoft Exchange seems to have galvanised this coordinated response. China will presumably deny it so the key thing will be what, apart from prosecuting those four hackers, they intend to do to hold China to account.

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