The UK and allies, including the US and Canada, have released recent statements accusing the Chinese government of “systematic cyber-sabotage”, believing that state-sponsored hackers were behind an early 2021 attack that compromised around the figure of 400,000 worldwide servers and leaving them open and exposed to cybercriminals.
Tied to Beijing
In the UK alone, more than 70 organisations were left compromised in the hack. The hack has been tied to a group associated with Beijing, a discovery made by the National Cyber Security Centre and supported by allies.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab described the hacking campaign as reckless but showing a familiar pattern of behaviour from the Chinese Government. The campaign had compromised on-premise email servers intending to target specific victims.
Earlier in 2021, the hack of Microsoft Exchange servers raised major concerns after victim’s networks were left wide open for additional attacks. This was identified as being the work of state-sponsored hackers.
Businesses on Alert
The UK National Cyber Security Centre went on to warn businesses about immediately updating all email servers to protect against exploitation from criminals. The Chinese Government was targeted by Raab in a drive to hold Beijing accountable if they do not end the cyber-sabotage campaign.
During the Microsoft Exchange hack, compromised servers undermined the security and integrity of the thousands of computers and networks worldwide, which opened the floodgates for access for significant amounts of hackers to continuously exploit them.
Government institutions and private companies have felt significant economic loss and security risk from these hack campaigns, and have showcased spill-over and systematic effects moving forward for security, economy and society.
Pointing to China
The European Union identified the campaigns were conducted from the territory of China and drew attention to the Chinese authorities to not let its territory be used for the malicious cyber activity.
The joint attribution comes following the US unsealing charges against 4 known Chinese nationals linked to the Ministry of State Security, the Chinese communist party intelligence organization.
The Chinese individuals were accused of hacking into victim companies, universities and government bodies between the years 2011 and 2018. As well as the US, it was identified that several countries were targeted including Austria, Canada, Germany, Norway, South Africa and the United Kingdom among others.
This falls as the second time the Chinese government has been accused of hacking by the UK and its allies following the trade secrets theft from 2018, where the US Department of Justice charged two identified Chinese nationals working as contractors for the state’s intelligence apparatus.