How China Turned a Prizewinning Hack Into a National Security Threat

In this blog post, we take a closer look at how China turned a prizewinning hack into a national security threat. We also provide some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of such attacks.

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Chinese hackers break into US companies

In recent years, Chinese hackers have broken into the computer networks of US companies and stolen sensitive information. These hacks have cost American businesses billions of dollars and have raised concerns about national security.

In 2014, Chinese hackers broke into the computer network of the US Office of Personnel Management and stole the personal information of over 22 million Americans. This hack was a major security breach and caused many Americans to lose faith in the government’s ability to protect their data.

In 2015, Chinese hackers broke into the computer network of Anthem, a large US health insurance company. The hackers stole the personal information of over 80 million Americans. This hack was one of the largest data breaches in US history.

Chinese hackers have also broken into the computer networks of many other US companies, including Yahoo, JPMorgan Chase, and Hilton Hotels. These hacks have cost American businesses billions of dollars and have led to increased tensions between the United States and China.

US government finds out and notifies companies

In September, the United States government revealed that it had discovered a major security breach affecting multiple federal agencies and critical infrastructure organizations. The attackers, believed to be from China, used a sophisticated malware called “Triton” to target industrial control systems (ICS). These systems are used to manage and monitor critical infrastructure, such as power plants and water treatment facilities.

The US government alerted the affected companies—which included oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco, US-based electric utility Southern Company, and Chinese technology firm Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology Co.—and helped them to remove the malware from their systems. However, the Triton malware had already done significant damage. In one instance, it caused an operational shutdown at an unidentified critical infrastructure facility.

Researchers believe that the Triton malware was developed by a nation-state due to its sophistication and the fact that it is specifically designed to target industrial control systems. While the US government has not officially attributed the attack to China, many experts believe that Beijing was behind it. If true, this would mark a significant escalation in cyberespionage and cyber warfare activity by China.

US government indicts Chinese hackers

The United States government has indicted five Chinese military officers on charges of hacking into the computer systems of five US companies, in what is being described as “a state-sponsored economic espionage campaign”.

The indictment, unsealed on Monday, accuses the officers of hacking into the systems of US steel and solar energy companies, as well as Westinghouse Electric, in order to gain “sensitive commercial information and trade secrets”.

The indictment says that the hackers targeted email accounts and computer networks of the companies in order to steal information that would give Chinese firms an edge in negotiating business deals.

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China retaliates by expelling US journalists

In an escalating tit-for-tat, China on Wednesday announced it was expelling three journalists from The Wall Street Journal from the country and canceling their press credentials, hours after the United States ordered the expulsion of four Chinese journalists from The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

The moves are a sharp escalation in tensions between Beijing and Washington over what each side says is the other’s unfair treatment of reporters. They come just days after the Trump administration signaled its intention to blacklist more than 100 Chinese news outlets in the United States, including some of the country’s most prominent state-run media organizations.

The war of words has echoes of the Cold War, when Washington and Moscow routinely expelled enemy reporters during moments of heightened tension. But this is the first time China has taken such drastic action against American journalists since it began allowing a limited number of them into the country starting in 1972.

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