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China pushes back against Exchange attack sponsorship claims

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson says 53 per cent of cyber attacks on China come from the US

China has very firmly pushed back against the accusation it paid contractors to attack Microsoft's Exchange Server.

The USA, UK, NATO and other nations on Monday named China as the source of the attack.

On Tuesday, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Zhao Lijian, responded to accusations that China's Ministry of State Security launched a global cyber hacking campaign.

Zhao said:

The US ganged up with its allies to make groundless accusations out of thin air against China on the cyber security issue. This act confuses right with wrong and smears and suppresses China out of political purpose. China will never accept this.

The spokesperson then accused the US of being the world's largest source of cyber attacks. He launched into statistics reported by China's National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team (CNCERT):

… about 52,000 malicious program command and control servers located outside China took control of about 5.31 million computer hosts in China in 2020. The US and two of its NATO allies are the top three in terms of the number of computers under their control in China.

In addition, 360's report also showed that APT-C-39, a cyber attack organization of the US Central Intelligence Agency, has carried out cyber infiltration and attacks on China for 11 years in key areas such as aerospace, science and research institutions, oil industry, large Internet companies and government agencies.

Zhao took to Twitter to further air his grievances:

Still hot under the collar during Wednesday's briefing with more tweets to prove it, Zhao cited data that appears to come from CNCERT's China Internet Cyber Security Report 2020 dated June 2021 and published online yesterday.

The spokesperson claimed that 53 per cent of the 42 million malicious programs found in 2020 originated from the US. Then, for the second day in a row, he made a point of the United States’ penchant for wiretapping – not just its enemies but also its allies.

Zhao concluded that: "People can tell right from wrong. The US has not a shred of credibility left on the issue of cyber security, making whatever it says more than dubious."

The 248-page Mandarin-language CNCERT report's early pages claim a fall in cyber incidents across China during 2020.

For example, the document states the number of cases the organization handled fell by 4.2 per cent year-on-year. Implanted backdoors among Chinese web sites fell overall 37.3 per cent year-on-year and domestic government sites with backdoors fell even more – a whopping 64.3 per cent year-on-year. Tampered web sites decreased by 45.9 per cent year-on-year. DDoS attacks, total attack traffic and botnet control terminals all dropped year-on-year – 16.16 per cent, 19.67 per cent and 2.05 per cent respectively.

CNCERT is a non-governmental, non-profit organization that has put out an annual cyber security report on China since 2008. ®

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