Defence Minister, Peter Dutton. Source: ABC
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  • Australia joins the United States and other international allies in condemning China for a “malicious” global cyber hacking campaign
  • Four officials from Beijing’s Ministry of State Security have been accused of carrying out a major attack on the Microsoft Exchange software earlier this year
  • The Australian Government says it is “seriously concerned” about the cyberattacks and the actions of the Chinese Government
  • The EU, Britain, Japan, New Zealand, Canada and NATO have joined Australia and the US in condemning China’s actions
  • Meanwhile, Beijing has vehemently denied the attacks and called the US’ allegations a “huge lie”

Australia has joined the United States and other international allies in condemning China for a “malicious” global cyber hacking campaign.

The international partners have specifically blamed Beijing’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) for a major attack on the Microsoft Exchange software that compromised tens of thousands of computers across the globe earlier this year.

The United States Department of Justice (DoJ) named four Chinese officials it alleges were responsible for the attack, with Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco saying the Chinese government continues to use cyberattacks to “steal what other countries make, in flagrant disregard of its bilateral and multilateral commitments”.

The DoJ alleged that three of the officials hired hackers to steal information that would ordinarily only be obtainable through research and development processes.

The fourth official allegedly worked for the MSS as a computer hacker to create malware and hack into computer systems owned by foreign governments and companies.

“The breadth and duration of China’s hacking campaigns, including these efforts targeting a dozen countries across sectors ranging from healthcare and biomedical research to aviation and defence, remind us that no country or industry is safe,” Ms O. Monaco said.

“Today’s international condemnation shows that the world wants fair rules, where countries invest in innovation, not theft.”

In Australia, Defence Minister Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews, and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne released a joint statement saying China’s actions have “undermined international stability and security”.

“The Australian Government is also seriously concerned about reports from our international partners that China’s Ministry of State Security is engaging contract hackers who have carried out cyber-enabled intellectual property theft for personal gain and to provide commercial advantage to the Chinese Government,” the ministers said.

“Australia calls on all countries — including China — to act responsibly in cyberspace.”

The ministers said while Australia’s cyber security posture was “strong”, there was no room for complacency given the evolving nature of the cyber environment.

The US and Australia are joined by the European Union, Britain, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in condemning China’s actions.

China hits back

Beijing, through its state-run tabloid The Global Times, has vehemently denied the hacking accusations, labelling the allegations a “huge lie”.

According to the Global Times report, China’s Ministry of State Security could not carry out such a cyberattack, and the claims are “completely inexplicable from the perspective of motivation”.

“It is well known that the security departments of any country are sensitive and confidential. It is impossible to prove [the MSS’] innocence by showing its internal working mechanisms,” The Global Times said.

“The US intends to put China in a disadvantageous situation, and China is unable to argue. This will make the US’ accusations look more like ‘true’.”

As such, the paper said, China is simply being “framed” for the attacks as the US works to stir up “new geopolitical disputes”.

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