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White House accuses China of carrying out email hack that compromised thousands of computers

China Microsoft Exchange hack
Posted at 7:53 AM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-19 15:00:44-04

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is blaming China for a hack of Microsoft Exchange email server software that compromised tens of thousands of computers around the world earlier this year.

The administration and allied nations on Monday also disclosed a broad range of other cyberthreats from Beijing, including ransomware attacks from government-affiliated hackers that have targeted companies with demands for millions of dollars.

"The (People's Republic of China's) pattern of irresponsible behavior in cyberspace is inconsistent with its stated objective of being seen as a responsible leader in the world," the White House said in a statement Monday. "Today, countries around the world are making it clear that concerns regarding the PRC's malicious cyber activities is bringing them together to call out those activities, promote network defense and cybersecurity, and act to disrupt threats to our economies and national security."

"We remain deeply concerned that the PRC has fostered an intelligence enterprise that includes contracted hackers," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a briefing on Monday. "...we are not ruling out further actions should it be merited."

A senior administration official says China's Ministry of State Security has been using criminal contract hackers, who have engaged in cyber extortion schemes and operations for their own profit.

The Justice Department also announced charges against four Chinese nationals who the department says were working with the Chinese government to target the systems of businesses, universities and government agencies.

According to the charges, China's Ministry of State Security directed the ransomware attack. During that attack, an American company received a high-dollar ransom demand, according to the Associated Press.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson previously said attribution of cyberattacks should be based on evidence and not "groundless accusations."

When asked about if the attacks at a press briefing on Monday, Psaki said that the U.S. would prefer to take action with the support of international allies.

"We've always felt that working together, working in partnership with allies around the world and also in partnership with members of the federal government...was how we approached it from a position of strength," Psaki said. "These malicious cyberattacks are not only impacting the United States. They are impacting a range of countries, a range of partners, and yes, we would like to work with countries for that reason."