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US, UK impose sanctions on China over state-sponsored cyber espionage

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Image Representational (Photo/Yahoo)

By Tenzin Nyidon

DHARAMSHALA, Mar 27: The United States and the United Kingdom have imposed sanctions on individuals and groups allegedly involved in state-sponsored cyber espionage activities linked to Beijing. The operation, purportedly orchestrated by a division of China’s Ministry of State Security, targeted a wide range of individuals and entities critical of the Chinese government.

The US and the UK have identified a hacking group, known within the cyber security community as Advanced Persistent Threat 31 (APT 31), as responsible for the recent cyber espionage campaign targeting politicians, journalists, and critics of Beijing. According to Mandiant, an American cybersecurity firm and subsidiary of Google, there are over 40 APT groups, with more than 20 suspected to be operated by China. Mandiant’s research suggests that APT 31 operates under the auspices of China’s Ministry of State Security, with its base located in the city of Wuhan.

APT 31 allegedly employed phishing techniques to deceive victims into divulging sensitive information. The phishing emails contained hidden tracking links, enabling APT 31 to gather information about the recipients’ location, device, and IP address. When victims opened these emails, their data was transmitted to a server controlled by the hackers, facilitating further targeted hacking efforts. This information was leveraged by APT 31 to compromise home routers and other electronic devices, enhancing their ability to infiltrate networks and extract sensitive information.

In the UK Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden highlighted attempts by APT 31 to spy on parliamentarians. Despite the unsuccessful attempt, Dowden emphasised the seriousness of the threat posed by APT 31, stating, “These actions demonstrate a clear and persistent pattern of behaviour that signals hostile intent from China. That is why the United Kingdom has today sanctioned two individuals and one entity associated with the Chinese state-affiliated APT 31 group for involvement in malicious cyber activity.”

Concurrently with the United Kingdom’s actions, the United States also announced sanctions and charges against APT 31, accusing the hacking group of engaging in a decade-long cyber espionage campaign. US Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco disclosed that APT 31 stands accused of sending over 10,000 emails to members of Congress, journalists, and American companies in an extensive effort to obtain sensitive data.

China has vehemently denied any involvement in cyber-attacks following accusations made by the US and the UK against APT 31, a hacking group allegedly affiliated with the Chinese government. A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Britain stated that the claims were fabricated and lacked factual evidence. “China has always firmly fought all forms of cyber-attacks according to law. China does not encourage, support or condone cyber-attacks,” the spokesperson affirmed.

One Response

  1. This proves that our Tibetan government Household Survey online is not safe as China can hack details and give threats to Tibetans whose family are still in Tibet. So it is better to do the survey on paper instead of online. CTA cyber security is not that strong as we know, and we are very vulnerable.

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