US and China traded barbs over widespread hacking of cyber systems of each other as cyberspace has become the latest front in tensions between the two countries.
The war of words between the two largest economies started on Monday when the US and its allies said cyber actors working with China’s Ministry of State Security had sponsored a massive hack of the Microsoft Exchange email software.
US and its allies including the EU, the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and NATO put up a united front on Monday in exposing and criticizing the Chinese Ministry of State Security’s malicious cyber activities. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday that it was the first-time
NATO has condemned China’s cyber activities. China on Tuesday rejected the claims and accused the US of “indiscriminate eavesdropping across the world”.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, reacting to the US and NATO allegation of China carrying out a global campaign of hacking, alleged that “under the US encouragement, NATO has made cyberspace the new battlefield” which may in turn fuel the cyber arms race. “The US has ganged up with allies and launched unwarranted accusations against China on Cyber security,” Zhao said. “China will never accept this,” Zhao said, though he gave no indication of possible retaliation.
Zhao’s comments came after the US Department of Justice said on Monday, it had charged four mainland Chinese with establishing a front company – Hainan Xiandun Technology Development – to carry out cyberattacks against users in 12 countries. He demanded Washington drop charges against Chinese nationals. About the allegations of cyber-attacks from China, Zhao reiterated Beijing’s oft repeated defense, saying it is difficult to prove the source of cyber-attacks. “Given the virtual nature of cyberspace and the fact that there are kinds of online actors who are difficult to trace, it is important to have enough evidence when investigating and identifying cyber-related incidents. “The so-called technological details released by the US does not constitute a complete chain of evidence,” he said.
He also accused the US of being the “largest source of cyber-attacks in the world and targeted specific industries in China, which included aerospace, oil, internet companies and government institutions. “Such attacks severely undermine China’s national, economic, infrastructure and personnel information security of the people,” Zhao said, adding that the US also wiretapped allies. The accusations over China’s alleged cyber activities came amid intensifying diplomatic hostilities between the world’s two biggest economies.