Chinese Spy Agencies’ Cyberattacks are Getting Bolder

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Analysts report that cyberattacks linked to Chinese intelligence agencies are rapidly increasing both in frequency and capability, as they seek to test foreign government responses.

Just last week the UK and US governments accused the APT 31 hacking group (which is backed by China’s government spy agency) of conducting a years-long cyber-attack campaign targeting politicians, national security officials, journalists, and businesses. Both governments then governments announced sanctions against linked Chinese companies and individuals.

According to the Guardian, analysts claim there were clear signs of an increase in cyber-attacks conducted by Chinese threat actors linked to China’s intelligence agencies and government.

When asking Taiwan-based cyber threat analysis firm T5, they report an increase in “constantly evolving” hacking efforts by Chinese groups in the Pacific region and Taiwan over the last three years, saying: “We believe that their purpose is to infiltrate specific targets and steal important information and intelligence, whether it be political, military or commercial.”

The UK announcement follows the weighty revelation that the “Volt Typhoon” Chinese hacking network had been lying dormant inside US critical infrastructure for as long as five years, “pre-positioning” itself for future acts of sabotage, indicating a significant shift away from intelligence-gathering espionage towards warfare preparation.

David Tuffley, a senior lecturer in cybersecurity at Griffith University in Australia, states that cyberattacks are part of China’s grey-zone activity – meaning acts that approach but do not reach warfare. “The whole point to make about all of this is that China is obviously adopting a much more muscular stance,” said Tuffley. “It knows it doesn’t have the military capability to defeat the Americans, the British, Australians, Japanese, and Koreans, in a hot war. So they are most unlikely to take it to that point.” It seems that instead, it is seeking to cause instability in the target country and even a loss of confidence in the operational abilities of that target.