Concerns about hacking by hostile Chinese actors are justified by recent news reports as well as historical data on cyberattacks against western nations and institutions.
Earlier this month, Australian intelligence officials claimed China may have accessed thousands of files and 19 years’ worth of data – to include tax and banking records – on Australian National University students and staff. Many of ANU’s graduates serve in the country’s intelligence and security agencies.
Also in June, U.S. cybersecurity vendor Cybereason issued a report describing “an ongoing global attack against telecommunications providers that has been active since at least 2017.” The report concludes the perpetrator is the APT10, an “advanced persistent threat,” and a state-supported Chinese espionage group. In December 2018, the U.S. government has indicted APT10 members with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The indictment noted the hackers worked in tandem to steal intellectual and technological information from dozens of commercial and defense technology companies throughout the continental United States. Additionally, APT 10 is also responsible for the theft of personnel information for 100,000 U.S. Navy personnel.
Breaches like these are not new. The Center for Strategic and International Studies identified China as responsible for the greatest number of cyber attacks by any nation over the past dozen years. It reached this conclusion from examining public data only. The true depth of China’s efforts – and successes – in penetrating western networks is probably still unknown.
It is essential that government agencies and private businesses implement appropriate security for their web servers, possess the capabilities to immediately respond to threats or potential attacks, and stay vigilant about protecting their sensitive assets and information at all times.