The US and its allies accused China of carrying out a massive cyber attack on tech giant Microsoft’s Exchange email server software earlier this year. Along with the charges, the US Justice Department also charged four Chinese nationals in connection with the hacking. However, Chinese officials have dismissed the allegation. In this way, the open allegations against China reflect its strategy to deal with US companies and cyber attacks on their own soil.
A look at the whole matter
In March, Microsoft Exchange email services were compromised by Chinese hackers through four “Zero-Days” attacks. Zero Day attacks are loopholes in a system, which leave little time for the company to respond and correct errors if hacked.
This weakness has helped hackers take control of the computers of thousands of companies and firms around the world. Even as Microsoft rolled out an update to tackle it, hackers continued to gain control of more devices.
Microsoft warns users of China’s cyber attack, said – Targeted Exchange Server software
At such risk were user names and passwords, personal details, intellectual property, personal communications and other data that could be used for blackmail and extortion.
The attack, reportedly by the Hafnium group affiliated with the Chinese government, was so widespread that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had to remove the malware from thousands of devices.
What does this mean for US-China relations?
Even though the US and its allies openly accused China of carrying out the attack, it has not yet imposed any sanctions after the allegations. Understanding the scope and sources of cyber attacks is generally no easy task and countries rarely openly accuse each other of major cyber attacks.
The US, European Union (EU), Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and NATO all condemned China’s role in the attack.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “As evidenced by the indictment of three MSS (Ministry of State Security) officials and one of their contract hackers, today (July 19) closed by the Justice Department. America In (Chinese) ) will take action against cyber actors for their irresponsible behavior in cyberspace.”
Blinken alleged that China’s MSS has promoted criminal contract hackers who carry out state-sponsored activities and cybercrime for their own financial gain.
This year has already seen several cyber attacks on US firms, most of them carried out by Russian conglomerates, such as the Colonial Pipeline attack and meat-packer JBS.
Relations between the US and China are falling to historically low levels as China seeks to cement its place as a global superpower that many believe is clashing with the current superpower.
How did China get away with it?
China has called the allegations by the US and its allies “baseless” and “irresponsible”. The first official statement came from the Chinese embassies in Australia and New Zealand, the two countries that jointly accused China, echoing the US.
“Given the virtual nature of cyberspace, one must have clear evidence when investigating and identifying cyber-related incidents,” the Chinese embassy in New Zealand said.
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