US, allies raise concerns over Chinese hackers

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A group of eight countries, including the United States and Australia, are raising concerns over Chinese hacking groups and the threat they pose.

The advisory, reported first by The Wall Street Journal, marks an unusual move for Western governments, who joined together to target China’s cyber activity, which they claim is led by the country’s intelligence services.

Australia led the warning and marks the first time the country has taken such action after being slow to criticize the activity from its largest trading partner, the Journal noted.

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The U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan all joined in on the advisory.

“In our current strategic circumstances, these attributions are increasingly important tools in deterring malicious cyber activity,” Richard Marles, Australia’s deputy prime minister said, per the Journal.

The warning targeted a group known as Advanced Persistent Threat 40, or APT40. It works with China’s Ministry of State Security to conduct cybersecurity operations.

Rachael Falk, the chief executive officer of the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre in Australia, told the outlet that this kind of action from all eight countries is “significant.”

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“You don’t see collective attribution from so many agencies about one malicious cyber threat actor very often,” she said.

The group is accused of posing as a normal user and subsequently working to steal valuable data. ATP40 finds loopholes in widely used software and compromises people’s personal devices, Falk said.

In its advisory, Australia said the group prefers exploiting “vulnerable, public-facing infrastructure over techniques that require user interaction such as phishing campaigns.”

The warning did not list why it was being released now, but the timing suggests that the group is still active, the Journal noted.

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The concerns about China’s hacking and cyber security plans have increased in recent years. It plays a major role in the tensions between the China and the U.S., even as leaders meet to try to repair relationships.

In March, the Biden administration sanctioned two Chinese nationals and a company that allegedly targeted critical infrastructure sectors as part of an ongoing hacking effort.

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