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Beijing is not happy that Canada’s government is naming and shaming Chinese hackers.
The big news on the television and on the front page of newspapers in Canada is the latest cyberattack by China — this time on Ottawa’s premier scientific research agency. In a rare rebuke, and coming ahead of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to Beijing in the fall, the federal government’s chief information officer issued a statement Tuesday declaring that computers at the National Research Council were penetrated by hackers, pointing the finger at “a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor.”
According to the USA News report Beijing was quick to react, claiming, “We do not accept the groundless accusation of Chinese government’s involvement,” according to a statement by Yang Yundong, a spokeperson for the Chinese embassy in Ottawa. “It is neither professional nor responsible to make groundless speculations and accusations,” he added.
Yang’s comments are remarkably similar to those of Zhang Junsai, China’s ambassador to Canada, during a radio interview on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2012. In the interview, Zhang reassured radio host Evan Solomon that Chinese firms are not involved in foreign espionage, saying “I can assure you that our companies working in other countries are strictly doing business according to the local laws.” Zhang blamed the allegations of espionage against Chinese firms on “a Cold War mentality,” and challenged anyone who claims otherwise to produce evidence or keep quiet: “If you really have the evidence, come [out] with it. If not … shut up.”
Unfortunately for Beijing, many governments now believe they have grounds to accuse China of cyberspying, and are willing to do so publicly. In May, the U.S. charged five Chinese military hackers with cyberespionage against U.S. companies and a labor organization. In October 2012, a U.S. intelligence committee report warned of the security risks associated with doing business with two of China’s leading telecommunications firms, Huawei and ZTE, with evidence that has been turned over to the FBI.