US, allies condemn China for ‘malicious’ cyber exercise: US official


— AFP/File
— AFP/File

The United States on Monday led allies in a fierce condemnation of China over allegedly “malicious” cyber exercise, accusing it of legal extortion, issuing ransom calls for to personal companies and threatening nationwide safety.

In feedback more likely to additional pressure worsening relations between Washington and Beijing, a senior US official mentioned that China’s “irresponsible behavior in cyberspace is inconsistent with its stated objective of being seen as a responsible leader in the world.”

The United States, the European Union, Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and NATO had been united towards the menace, the US official mentioned, and would expose how China targets worldwide cyber networks.

China’s Ministry of State Security “uses criminal contract hackers to conduct unsanctioned cyber operations globally, including for their own personal profit,” the official mentioned.

“Their operations include criminal activities such as cyber-enabled extortion, crypto-jacking, and theft from victims around the world for financial gain.

“We’re conscious of stories that PRC (China) government-affiliated cyber operators have performed ransom operations towards non-public firms which have included ransom calls for with hundreds of thousands of {dollars}.”

Later on Monday, the US-led alliance was due to announce details of action against China over the alleged cyber misconduct, and to reveal 50 “techniques, strategies and procedures Chinese state-sponsored cyber actors use.”

The official said US allies were sharing technical advice on how to confront China, as Beijing’s cyber security behavior “poses a significant menace to the US and allies’ financial and nationwide safety.”

Not just Russia?

The United States will also on Monday formally accuse cyber actors affiliated to China’s Ministry of State Security of conducting the massive Microsoft Exchange Server hack disclosed in March.

The hack, which exploited flaws in the Microsoft Exchange service, affected at least 30,000 US organizations including local governments and was already attributed to an “unusually aggressive” Chinese cyber-espionage campaign.

“We have raised our issues about each the Microsoft incident, and the PRC broader malicious cyber exercise with senior PRC authorities officers,” the US official said.

Accusations of cyberattacks against the United States have recently focused on Russia, rather than China.

Last week, Washington offered $10 million in rewards for information about foreign online extortionists as it stepped up efforts to halt the sharp rise in ransomware attacks.

US officials say that many of the attacks originate in Russia, although they have debated to what extent there is state involvement. Russia denies responsibility.

This year has seen a slew of prominent ransomware strikes that have disrupted a major US pipeline, a meat processor and the software firm Kaseya, which affected 1,500 businesses.

Some $350 million was paid to malicious cyber actors last year, a spike of 300 percent from 2019, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Details on the joint action against China were expected later Monday from the White House, the EU, NATO and others.

“The US and our allies and companions are usually not ruling out additional actions to carry the PRC accountable,” the US official said, adding, “This is the primary time NATO has condemned PRC cyber exercise.

“We’re putting forward a common cyber approach with our allies, and laying down clear expectations of how responsible nations behave in cyberspace.”

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