Microsoft Exchange email hack was caused by China, US says – .

Microsoft Exchange email hack was caused by China, US says – .

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Monday accused China of hacking Microsoft Exchange mail server software that compromised tens of thousands of computers around the world earlier this year.

The administration and allied nations have also disclosed a wide array of other Beijing cyber threats, including ransomware attacks by government-affiliated hackers that have targeted companies with millions of dollars in demands. China’s State Security Ministry has used criminal hackers, who have engaged in cyberextortion schemes and thefts for their own benefit, according to a senior administration official. This official informed journalists of the investigation on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department on Monday announced charges against four Chinese nationals who prosecutors said were working with the State Security Department in a hacking campaign targeting dozens of computer systems, including businesses, universities and government entities.

The announcements highlighted the continued cyber threat posed by Chinese government hackers, even as the administration works to curb ransomware attacks from Russia-based unions that have targeted critical infrastructure, including a huge fuel pipeline. Even though the denunciation was not accompanied by any sanction from Beijing, a senior administration official who leaked the actions to reporters said the United States had clashed with senior Chinese officials and the White House considered shame. publicity of the multinational as an important message.

That hackers affiliated with the Department of State Security carried out a ransomware attack was surprising and worrying to the US government, the senior administration official said. But the attack, in which an unidentified U.S. company received a large ransom demand, also gave U.S. officials new insight into what the official said was “the kind of aggressive behavior that we see it coming from China ”.

The European Union and Britain have also singled out China. The EU has said malicious cyber activities with “significant effects” targeting government institutions, political organizations and key industries in the bloc’s 27 member states could be linked to Chinese hacking groups. The UK’s National Cyber ​​Security Center said the groups were targeting maritime industries and naval defense contractors in the US, Europe and the Finnish parliament.

In a statement, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the hacking was “carried out from within Chinese territory for the purpose of intellectual property theft and espionage.”

The Microsoft Exchange cyber attack “by Chinese state-backed groups was reckless but familiar behavior,” British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said.

The majority of recent, most damaging and high-profile ransomware attacks have involved Russian criminal gangs. Although the United States has at times seen links between Russian intelligence agencies and individual hackers, the Chinese government’s use of criminal hackers “to conduct unauthorized cyber operations on a global scale is distinct,” the manager said.

The Microsoft Exchange hack was first identified in January and was quickly attributed to Chinese cyber spies by private sector groups. An administration official said the government’s attribution to hackers affiliated with China’s State Security Ministry has so far been in part due to ransomware discovery and for-profit hacking operations and because the administration wanted to combine the announcement with business advice on the tactics the Chinese used.

A notice released Monday by the FBI, National Security Agency, and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency outlined specific techniques and means that government agencies and businesses can protect themselves from.

The White House also wanted to form an international coalition of allies to call on China, according to the official, who said it was the first time that NATO has condemned Beijing’s hacking operations.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, when asked about the Microsoft Exchange hack, previously said that China “strongly opposes and combats cyberattacks and cybervol in all their forms” and warned that the attribution of Cyber ​​attacks should be based on evidence and not on “baseless accusations”.


Kelvin Chan in London contributed to this report


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