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International sanctions for digital espionage linked to China

Punitive measures against cyber-espionage: Chinese entities and individuals targeted by the US and UK

The US and UK have sanctioned a Chinese entity and 2 citizens for cyber espionage against critics and infrastructure. Accused of links to the Chinese government, they targeted politicians and electoral processes. China denies it and demands concrete evidence.

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The United States and the United Kingdom have imposed sanctions on a Chinese corporate entity and 2 citizens accused of participating in a complex cyber espionage operation that targeted millions of individuals, including politicians, voters and prominent government critics of Beijing. The punitive measures, announced Monday, link these harmful activities directly to intelligence operations run by the Chinese government. The United States Department of the Treasury has specifically named Wuhan Xiaoruizhi Science and Technology Company Ltd as a front used by China's Ministry of State Security to carry out several malicious cyber operations.

Details on the cyber operation and specific findings

Named as part of the sanctions were Zhao Guangzong and Ni Gaobin, both affiliated with the Wuhan firm, accused of launching cyberattacks against critical infrastructure sectors such as defense, aerospace and energy. The same day also saw the US Department of Justice charge Zhao, Ni and five other hackers with conspiracy to commit computer intrusions and tax fraud, revealing they were part of a 14-year cyber operation targeting critics, businesses and political officials both in the USA and abroad.

Impact on UK electoral processes and response

The British authorities, while not specifically naming the corporate entity and the 2 sanctioned individuals, confirmed the subjects' involvement in operations with the APT31 group, known for targeting US presidential campaigns and the information systems of the Finnish parliament. Additionally, in 2021, hackers affiliated with the Chinese government conducted reconnaissance activities against critics in the UK Parliament, although attempts to compromise the accounts were unsuccessful. The UK Electoral Commission detected a breach of its system in October 2022, revealing that actors had access to its servers as early as 2021.

Reactions and official statements

UK Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden announced that the government would summon the Chinese ambassador following the allegations. In response, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on governments to base their claims on concrete evidence rather than smear without factual basis, stressing that cybersecurity issues should not be politicized. “We hope that all parties will stop spreading false information, adopt a responsible attitude and work together to maintain peace and security in cyberspace,” added ministry spokesperson Lin Jian.

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03/25/2024 20:52

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