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EU says sanctions possible after Britain alleges Chinese group is responsible for cyberattacks

Discussion in 'China & Far East' started by Hamartia Antidote, Feb 14, 2019.

  1. Hamartia Antidote

    Hamartia Antidote ELITE MEMBER

    Nov 17, 2013
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    United States

    European Union member states are considering a joint response to cyberattacks allegedly conducted by a Chinese state-linked hacker group after Britain presented evidence last month about network infiltration, sources said.

    British analysts briefed EU counterparts at a meeting on January 28, offering evidence of both software and hardware attacks by the group known as Advanced Persistent Threat 10, or APT 10, the sources said. They would not give details of the alleged hardware attack, claiming the information was classified.

    Officials at the meeting discussed potential responses, such as sanctions or a joint warning. The issue might be discussed at a scheduled EU-China Summit in April, an official said.

    The focus on APT 10 is part of a broader clampdown by Europe and the United States on alleged espionage and intellectual property theft by China. The hacker group was at the centre of charges in December by the US Department of Justice, which accused Chinese officials of orchestrating a decade-long espionage campaign that involved infiltrating companies in the US and more than a dozen other countries, drawing a denial from China.

    Britain’s evidence was related to those charges, a source said.

    “Some countries’ accusations against China on the cybersecurity issue are unfounded and groundless, driven by ulterior motives,” the Chinese mission to the EU said in response to the allegations. “We urge the relevant parties to stop defaming China, so as not to undermine their bilateral relations and cooperation with China.”

    For any response against China linked to cyberattacks, the EU’s members would need to agree unanimously that the country was responsible and not all EU members agreed, a source said. Britain is expected to leave the bloc at the end of March.


    The EU is developing protocols to respond to malicious cyber activities, for instance by imposing sanctions, but it can be difficult to clearly attribute actions to individuals or a nation state.

    The British foreign office in December joined the US in pressing the accusations against APT 10, claiming that the group acted on behalf of the Chinese government “to carry out a malicious cyber campaign targeting intellectual property and sensitive commercial data in Europe, Asia and the US”.

    The US justice department claimed that the group used a technique known as spear phishing, in which emails that pretend to be from legitimate addresses are sent with attached documents and files that secretly install malware if opened. That can give hackers access to a subject’s computer and allow them to steal usernames and passwords, files and other information.

    The US charges, which did not mention any hardware attacks by the group, also said the hackers targeted the networks of managed service providers, which remotely manage businesses and governments’ IT infrastructure, to gain unauthorised access to their clients’ networks.

    US cybersecurity firm FireEye, which has been tracking APT 10 since 2009, said the Chinese cyber espionage group had targeted construction and engineering, aerospace and telecom firms, as well as governments in the US, Europe and Japan in an effort to support Chinese national security goals of acquiring military and intelligence information.
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