The U.K., U.S. and the EU have criticized China for carrying out a major cyberattack earlier this year that targeted Microsoft Exchange servers and affected at least 30,000 organizations worldwide.
Western security services believe this signals a shift from a targeted espionage campaign to a large-scale raid, raising concerns that Chinese cyber behavior is spiralling out of control.
China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) has also been accused of broader espionage and a larger pattern of “reckless” behaviour.
China has previously denied the hacking allegations, saying it rejects all forms of cybercrime.
Western intelligence officials say the patterns of cyberattacks are far more serious than anything they have seen so far, beginning in January when hackers from a China-linked group called Hafnium began exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft Exchange.
They exploited the vulnerability to build back doors into systems they could return to later.
Britain claimed the attack was likely to allow for large-scale espionage, including violations of personal information and intellectual property.
The U.K. has been privately discussing the issue of Chinese cyber activity with the Chinese government for an extended period of time, including handing over evidence.
Microsoft publicly announced the vulnerability on March 2 and offered a patch to fix it. By that time, more hackers around the world had recognized its value and infiltrated, leaving a quarter of a million systems worldwide exposed.
Western governments accuse the MSS of hiring hackers and want it to cut ties with them, with the U.K. Foreign Office claiming that the Chinese government has “ignored repeated calls to end its reckless campaign, and allowed state-backed actors to increase the scale of their attacks and act recklessly when caught”.
The U.S. has said it reserved the right to take additional measures against China over its cyber activities, while the EU said the hack had “resulted in security risks and significant economic loss for its government institutions and private companies.”
For more information, read the original story in the BBC.