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China rejects claim it is spying on Western critical infrastructure

China rejects claim it is spying on Western critical infrastructure
FILE PHOTO: A flag of China is seen in Beijing, China on Nov 25, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

The Chinese government has rejected claims that its spies are penetrating Western infrastructure, calling the joint warning issued by the United States and its allies a "collective disinformation campaign".

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters that alerts issued by the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were intended to promote their intelligence alliance, known as the Five Eyes - and that it was Washington that was guilty of hacking.

"The United States is the empire of hacking," Mao said.

The reaction follows a series of warnings issued by Five Eyes countries - and major US tech firm Microsoft Corp - about the activities of a state-sponsored Chinese hacking group known as Volt Typhoon.

They accused Volt Typhoon of spying on a wide range of US critical infrastructure organisations, from telecommunications to transportation hubs.

In a report, Microsoft said the espionage has also targeted the US island territory of Guam, home to strategically important American military bases, adding that "mitigating this attack could be challenging".

Although Chinese spies have long been active online against the United States and its allies, Volt Typhoon has raised particular concerns because of its focus on critical infrastructure, including communications links that tie the United States to the Pacific, analysts say.

The group's focus on stealthiness is also drawing attention.

Cybersecurity company Secureworks, which said it has responded to at least three Volt Typhoon hacks, described the group as working consistently to cover its tracks.

The company also backed Western assessments of the group's origins, saying that the hacker group, which it nicknamed "Bronze Silhouette", likely operates on behalf of Beijing.

Secureworks - an arm of Dell Technologies' - said that Chinese spies were upping their game in response to "likely increased pressure from (Chinese) leadership to avoid public scrutiny of its cyberespionage activity".

It was not immediately clear how many organisations were affected by the espionage, but the US National Security Agency (NSA) said it was working with partners including Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the UK, as well as the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to identify breaches.

Source: Reuters/ga


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