US and UK impose sanctions over alleged Chinese cyberespionage

The accusations shed light on the complexities of digital security, raising questions about international cooperation and the evolving landscape of cyber threats.

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US and British officials have taken a stance against China, filing charges and imposing sanctions for a widespread cyberespionage campaign. Termed ‘Advanced Persistent Threat 31’ (APT31), the hacking group allegedly operates under China’s Ministry of State Security. They claim that targets include prominent figures like White House staffers, US senators, British parliamentarians, and government officials globally who have criticized Beijing. Additionally, defence contractors and various US companies, including those in steel, energy, and apparel sectors, were compromised, along with leading providers of 5G mobile telephone equipment, as well as the spouses of US officials and lawmakers.

The motive behind the global hacking operation, according to Deputy US Attorney General Lisa Monaco, is to stifle critics of the Chinese regime, infiltrate government institutions, and steal trade secrets. An indictment unveiled against seven alleged Chinese hackers reveals the extent of the breach, compromising millions of Americans’ work accounts, personal emails, online storage, and telephone call records.

Officials from the UK also accuse APT31 of targeting British lawmakers critical of China and a second group of Chinese spies for hacking Britain’s electoral watchdog, affecting millions more in the UK. Chinese diplomats have dismissed the allegations, labelling them as unwarranted and fabricated.

The Chinese Embassy in London denied the charges, calling them ‘completely fabricated and malicious slanders’. Alongside these allegations, Britain and the US have imposed sanctions on a firm believed to be a front company for China’s Ministry of State Security, further escalating tensions surrounding the cyberespionage activities.