The Biden administration on Monday blamed China for the hack of Microsoft Exchange email server software that compromised tens of thousands of computers around the world earlier this year.
The administration made the announcement with a group of allies and partners, including the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and NATO.
A Biden administration official said this is the first time NATO has condemned China’s cyber activities.
“No one action can change China’s behavior in cyberspace and neither can just one country acting on its own,” a senior administration official said. “Our allies and partners are a tremendous source of strength and a unique American advantage, and our collective approach to cyber threat information sharing and defense.”
The Microsoft Exchange hack was first identified in January and was attributed to Chinese cyber spies by private sector groups. An administration official said the government’s attribution to hackers affiliated with China’s Ministry of State Security took until now in part because of the discovery of the ransomware and for-profit hacking operations and because the administration wanted to pair the announcement with guidance for businesses about tactics that the Chinese have been using.
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A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, asked about the Microsoft Exchange hack, previously told the Associated Press that China “firmly opposes and combats cyberattacks and cyber theft in all forms” and cautioned that attribution of cyberattacks should be based on evidence and not “groundless accusations.”
But the Biden administration and allied nations also disclosed a broad range of other cyber-threats from Beijing, including ransomware attacks from government-affiliated hackers that have targeted companies with demands for millions of dollars.
An official said the PRC’s Ministry of State Security uses criminal contract hackers to conduct unsanctioned cyber operation globally, including for their own personal profit.