U.S. Alleges China is Hiring Criminals to Hack Companies and Universities

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The White House on Monday accused the Chinese government of masterminding and directing a series of widespread cyberattacks, including a massive attack on Microsoft servers that ensnared tens of thousands of organizations.

In a concerted effort to confront China on the diplomatic stage, a group of international allies — including NATO, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan — joined the U.S. in its condemnation of Beijing, and announced they’re forming a new alliance to track and prevent Chinese state-sponsored cyberattacks.

Gone Phishing

U.S. officials didn’t jump to conclusions in March when Microsoft blamed a Chinese state-backed hacking group called Hafnium for conducting attacks that penetrated its Exchange servers. Now, authorities say they’re not only confident China was behind the Exchange attack, but that the government is bankrolling networks of criminal hackers to steal and interfere in U.S. and international intellectual property

  • The Microsoft Exchange server attack was no small-time hack — it hit at least 30,000 American organizations and hundreds of thousands worldwide, including the European Banking Authority.
  • According to the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center, theft of American intellectual property by Chinese-affiliated hackers amounts to roughly $400 billion a year.

That’s Not All: On Monday, the U.S. Justice Department unsealed an indictment against four Chinese nationals, alleging Beijing hired them to run a hacking campaign on U.S. and international firms, universities, and governments from 2011 and 2018. The indictment claims the hackers stole sensitive information on everything from autonomous vehicle and commercial aircraft tech to medical research on diseases Ebola, MERS, and HIV.

Diplomatic Row: Monday was just the latest escalation in a series of diplomatic standoffs between the two world powers. Last week, the U.S. added 14 Chinese companies to an economic blacklist over allegations of human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang and also sanctioned seven Chinese officials for Beijing’s crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong.

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