“The Chinese government must end this systematic cyber sabotage and can expect to be held to account if it does not,” he said. Dominic Raab, UK foreign secretary, described the Microsoft Exchange hack as a “reckless but familiar pattern of behaviour”. The UK has also called on China to reaffirm its commitments during the G20 not to “conduct or support” cyber theft of intellectual property or trade secrets.
“This irresponsible and harmful behaviour resulted in security risks and significant economic loss for our government institutions and private companies, and has shown significant spillover and systemic effects for our security, economy and society at large,” the council said in a statement. The European Council said on Monday that EU member states stood by Washington’s assessment that China had been responsible for the Microsoft Exchange hack.
The statement added that the council had detected “malicious cyber activities” by Chinese hacking groups APT40 and APT31 targeting government institutions and political organisations in the EU as well as European industries “for the purpose of intellectual property theft and espionage”. The Biden administration’s blunt criticism was made alongside a coalition of allies, including the EU, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Nato.
The official added that the US had a “high degree of confidence” that attackers on the MSS payroll had carried out the offensive on Microsoft’s Exchange email application, which was disclosed in March. One cyber security researcher claimed it hit at least 30,000 organisations, including businesses and local governments. Cyber attacks have proliferated during the pandemic as hackers exploited vulnerabilities exposed by employees working remotely. “Their operations include criminal activities, such as cyber-enabled extortion, crypto-jacking and theft from victims around the world for financial gain.”
A senior administration official said: “ MSS — Ministry of State Security — uses criminal contract hackers to conduct unsanctioned cyber operations globally, including for their own personal profit. The move by the US marked a new front in Washington’s battle against a rising tide of ransomware attacks, which have largely been blamed on gangs believed to be operating out of Russia.
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