China carried out spy operations in US, UK for 14 years

China FM Wang Yi addresses after 14th NPC (image credit X China MFA)

China FM Wang Yi addresses after 14th NPC (image credit X China MFA)

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China’s APT31 stole trade secrets, snooped on US officials

By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, Match 25: In a first, the US and the UK have pressed espionage charges against China. The Justice Department of the US has filed indictment charges against a hacking group APT31. This group is alleged to have direct links with the Chinese government.

The UK also pressed similar charges against APT31. It is alleged to be linked to the Chinese Ministry of Security, said CTV News in a report on Monday. In a span of 14 years, the Chinese hackers targeted the officials of the US, businessmen, journalists, lawmakers, academics, and others. They also allegedly stole trade secrets.

The group also targeted China’s critics, said the US Justice Department. For 14 years, the Chinese hackers allegedly affiliated with the state ministry covered an expansive target of one million people in several countries.

The Justice Department indictment charges alleged: “Seven nationals of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with conspiracy to commit computer intrusions and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.” It alleged the group’s involvement in a PRC-based hacking group to target U.S. and foreign critics, businesses, and political officials. The operation was carried out in furtherance of the PRC’s economic espionage and foreign intelligence objectives.

It further alleged that “over 10,000 malicious emails, impacting thousands of victims, across multiple continents” were sent “to repress critics of the Chinese regime, compromise government institutions, and steal trade secrets”.

The department further alleged, “Today’s announcement exposes China’s continuous and brash efforts to undermine our nation’s cybersecurity and target Americans and our innovation. This was attributed to FBI Director Christopher Wray.

The FBI officials have alleged that “APT31 Group’s practices further demonstrate the size and scope of the PRC’s state-sponsored hacking apparatus”. They charged: “Seven accused along with dozens of identified PRC Ministry of State Security (MSS) intelligence officers, contractor hackers, and support personnel, were members of a hacking group and known within the cybersecurity community as Advanced Persistent Threat 31 (the APT31 Group).”

The modus operandi involved sending over 10,000 e-mails to targets with the cover of prominent news outlets or journalists. The e-mails embedded legitimate news articles. “The malicious emails contained hidden tracking links, such that if the recipient simply opened the email, information about the recipient, including the recipient’s location, internet protocol (IP) addresses, network schematics, and specific devices used to access the pertinent email accounts, was transmitted to a server controlled by the defendants and those working with them,” charged the US Justice Department.

China has not yet officially reacted to the charges pressed against the government for trans-continental espionage operations. But European nations had been alarmed last year at the extent of the police stations set up by China. It has been alleged that China has been operating police stations in several countries with the involvement of the intelligence sleuths.

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