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Microsoft Exchange hack: Australia, US and allies blame China, condemn cyberattacks

Australia has joined with the US and other allies to blame China for a significant cyberattack – and issue a stark warning. Australia has joined with the United States and other allied nations to condemn China’s “malicious cyber activities”, directly blaming it for a massive hack of Microsoft Exchange software earlier this year.

In a joint statement on Monday night, Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, and Defence Minister Peter Dutton said China’s actions in cyberspace had “undermined international stability and security”.

They said the Australian government was “seriously concerned” about reports from allies that China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) was “engaging contract hackers” to steal intellectual property from other countries.

“Australia calls on all countries, including China, to act responsibly in cyberspace,” said Ms. Payne, Ms. Andrews, and Mr. Dutton.

“China must adhere to the commitments it has made in the G20, and bilaterally, to refrain from cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets and confidential business information with the intent of obtaining competitive advantage.”

They said Australia’s cyber security posture was “strong”, but there was “no room for complacency,” and the government would continue to work with its international partners to strengthen security.

RELATED: China’s misinformation war against Australia

China responded to the allegations through the Beijing-linked state media outlet Global Times. the Chinese government hiring hackers “to conduct unsanctioned cyber operations globally” is a huge lie,” a Global Times editorial reads. “Such a practice cannot be carried out in China’s system, and it is completely inexplicable from the perspective of motivation.”

It accused Washington of exploiting cyber attacks to “frame China”. “The US, the global top technology center, has blatantly set up cyber troops but loudly accuses other countries of launching cyberattacks. How ridiculous!”

“The US cannot exploit these smears to substantively attack China. Suppose the US takes aggressive measures, carries out national-level cyber attacks on China, or imposes so-called sanctions on China. In that case, we will retaliate.” It warned the US we would “bear responsibility” for the “vicious accusations”, along with its allies.

‘Pattern of irresponsible behavior’

The Microsoft Exchange hack, first identified in January, compromised tens of thousands of computers worldwide. Private sector groups quickly pointed the finger at China, though governments had not publicly accused it until now.

The Australian ministers’ joint statement was released in coordination with the US, United Kingdom, European Union, NATO, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China was being held accountable for a “pattern of irresponsible, disruptive and destabilizing behavior in cyberspace”.

“China’s Ministry of State Security has fostered an ecosystem of criminal contract hackers who carry out both state-sponsored activities and cybercrime for their own financial gain,” said Mr. Blinken.

“In addition, the US government alongside our allies and partners has formally confirmed that cyber actors affiliated with the MSS exploited vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange Server in a massive cyber-espionage operation that indiscriminately compromised thousands of computers and networks, mostly belonging to private sector victims.

“As evidenced by the indictment of three MSS officers and one of their contract hackers unsealed by the Department of Justice today, the US will impose consequences on Chinese malicious cyber actors for their irresponsible behavior in cyberspace.”

Mr. Blinken said the international community had laid out clear expectations and guidelines for what constitutes “responsible behavior” in cyberspace.

“Responsible states do not indiscriminately compromise global network security nor knowingly harbor cybercriminals, let alone sponsor and collaborate with them,” he said.

“These contract hackers cost governments and businesses billions of dollars in stolen intellectual property, ransom payments, and cybersecurity mitigation efforts, all while the MSS had them on its payroll.”

He added that the US and its allies would oppose “digital authoritarianism” and “enhance global security and stability” in cyberspace.

Gemma Broadhurst
Gemma Broadhurst is a 23-year-old computing student who enjoys extreme ironing, hockey and duck herding. She is kind and entertaining, but can also be very standoffish and a bit evil.She is an Australian Christian. She is currently at college. studying computing. She is allergic to milk. She has a severe phobia of chickens

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