‘Made up out of thin air’: China denies hacking charges made by U.S., Canada

Click to play video: 'Top cybersecurity agency warns of major Microsoft hack'
Top cybersecurity agency warns of major Microsoft hack
WATCH (March 17, 2021): Top cybersecurity agency warns of major Microsoft hack – Mar 17, 2021

China on Tuesday rejected accusations by Washington, Ottawa and other Western allies that Beijing is to blame for a hack of the Microsoft Exchange email system and complained Chinese entities are victims of damaging U.S. cyberattacks.

A foreign ministry spokesman demanded Washington drop charges announced Monday against four Chinese nationals accused of working with the Ministry of State Security to try to steal U.S. trade secrets, technology and disease research.

The announcement that the Biden administration and its allies formally blame Chinese government-linked hackers for ransomware attacks increased pressure over long-running complaints against Beijing but included no sanctions. On Monday, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said authorities are confident that China’s Ministry of State Security was responsible for compromising the servers.

Click to play video: 'White House warns of ‘large number of victims’ following Microsoft email hack'
White House warns of ‘large number of victims’ following Microsoft email hack

“The United States ganged up with its allies to make unwarranted accusations against Chinese cybersecurity,” said the spokesman, Zhao Lijian. “This was made up out of thin air and confused right and wrong. It is purely a smear and suppression with political motives.”

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“China will never accept this,” Zhao said, though he gave no indication of possible retaliation.

China is a leader in cyberwarfare research along with the United States and Russia, but Beijing denies accusations that Chinese hackers steal trade secrets and technology. Security experts say the military and security ministry also sponsor hackers outside the government.

On Monday, U.S. authorities said government-affiliated hackers targeted American and other victims with demands for millions of dollars. Officials alleged contract hackers associated with the MSS engaged in extortion schemes and theft for their own profit.

Read more: Canada joins U.S. in blaming China for Microsoft hack earlier this year

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Microsoft Corp. blamed Chinese spies for the Microsoft Exchange attack that compromised tens of thousands of computers around the world. The British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, on Monday called that “a reckless but familiar pattern of behavior.”

Also Monday, the Justice Department announced charges against four Chinese nationals who prosecutors said worked with the MSS to target computers at companies, universities and government entities. The defendants are accused of targeting trade secrets, scientific technologies and infectious-disease research.

“China firmly opposes and combats any form of cyberattacks, and will not encourage, support or condone any cyberattacks,” Zhao said.

Read more: Canadian systems compromised by malware in the Microsoft Exchange breach: officials

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Citing what he said was Chinese cybersecurity research, Zhao accused the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency of carrying out hacking attacks on China’s aerospace research facilities, oil industry, internet companies and government agencies over an 11-year period.

Those attacks “severely compromised” national and economic security, Zhao said.

— With files from Global News.

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