China says US hackers breached Wuhan earthquake monitors

Beijing has accused US-backed hackers of infecting equipment used to monitor earthquakes with malicious software. The Foreign Ministry says the hack poses a serious threat to China’s national security.

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China has accused US-backed hackers of compromising network equipment at an earthquake monitoring station in Wuhan in what may have been an attempt to spy on China’s military operations.

Wuhan municipal authorities said the malware was detected in data collection stations at a seismic reporting system run by the Wuhan Earthquake Monitoring Centre. The Trojan virus was found to be used to install malicious software on the devices, which enabled the hackers to take control of the equipment and steal the earthquake data. The equipment, which forms part of the Wuhan Municipal Emergency Management Bureau’s network, has been sealed off.

On the same day, China’s Foreign Ministry condemned the hacking, adding that Beijing would take the necessary measures to safeguard its cybersecurity.

Why does it matter?

Earthquake intensity measurements are generally public information worldwide, but precise seismic waveform data, more detailed and specific to each station, could be valuable for military purposes. For instance, experts caution that this data could uncover underground cavernous structure nearby, which could then be used to identify potential locations of air-raid shelters or civil defence bunkers.

The news comes as tensions between the two countries are renewed due to a China-based threat actor attempting to access email systems to gather US intelligence.