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Chinese Hackers Behind Malicious Cyber Operations: Australia

A joint report led by the Australian Cyber Security Centre said China’s APT40 hackers are regularly targeting private and state networks, to steal passwords and usernames


Blockchain analysts say North Korean hackers used a payments firm in Phnom Penh to launder stolen crypto (Reuters pic).

 

Australia’s cybersecurity agency has accused a group of Chinese hackers of malicious foreign intelligence cyber operations for China’s Ministry of State Security.

A joint report on Tuesday led by the Australian Cyber Security Centre said the APT40 hackers regularly targeted private and state networks in Australia, stealing hundreds of passwords and usernames from two unnamed networks in 2022 and had remained a digital security threat.

“The activity and techniques overlap with the groups tracked as Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) 40,” said the report, which included inputs from lead cyber security agencies for the United States, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Germany.

 

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In March US and British officials accused Beijing of a sweeping cyberespionage campaign that allegedly hit millions of people including lawmakers, academics and journalists, and companies including defence contractors.

They said China-backed “APT31” was responsible for the network intrusion.

China at the time said the hacking allegations by US and Britain were “political manoeuvring”.

APTs are a general term for cyber actors or groups, often state-backed, that engage in malicious cyber activities. New Zealand in March said APT40 targeted its parliamentary services and parliamentary counsel office in 2021 and had gained access to important information.

“(The Australian government) is committed to defending Australian organisations and individuals in the cyber domain, which is why for the first time we are leading this type of cyber attribution,” Defence Minister Richard Marles said in a statement released to the media.

The report comes as both Australia and China are rebuilding ties after a period of strained relations. Ties hit a low in 2020 after Canberra called for an independent investigation into the origin of Covid-19. Beijing responded by imposing tariffs on multiple Australian commodities, most of which have been lifted.

The Chinese embassy in Canberra told the ABC their government “does not encourage, support or condone attacks launched by hackers.”

 

  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard

 

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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.

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