By Bonnie Christian, standard.co.uk
China has been accused of launching a “widespread and significant” campaign of “cyber intrusions” against the UK and its allies.
The Foreign Office said it had been assessed with the “highest level of probability” that a group acting on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of State targeted intellectual property and commercially sensitive data in companies in Europe, the US and Asia.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “This campaign is one of the most significant and widespread cyber intrusions against the UK and allies uncovered to date, targeting trade secrets and economies around the world.
“These activities must stop. They go against the commitments made to the UK in 2015, and, as part of the G20, not to conduct or support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property or trade secrets.
“Our message to governments prepared to enable these activities is clear: together with our allies, we will expose your actions and take other necessary steps to ensure the rule of law is upheld.”
The group was organised more like an corporation than a gang, a UK government official told The Guardian.
Officials said the issue had been raised privately at the highest levels with China for the best part of two years, including by Theresa May, but that the hacking had not stopped so now the Chinese were being challenged in public, according to the paper.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We enjoy a strong relationship with China, that allows us to express disagreement after claims of hacking.”
The hacking was conducted by a group known as APT 10, which was acting on behalf of China’s Ministry of State Security, the Foreign Office said in a statement.
“This campaign shows that elements of the Chinese government are not upholding the commitments China made directly to the UK in a 2015 bilateral agreement,” the a UK government official said.
The US Justice Department is charging two Chinese citizens in relation to the campaign.
An indictment was unsealed Thursday against Zhu Hua and Zhang Shillong. Prosecutors say they were acting on behalf of China’s main intelligence agency.
Britain joins the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden in condemning the efforts to steal other countries’ trade secrets and technologies.
The Foreign Office said the group almost certainly continues to target a range of global companies, and are seeking to gain access to commercial secrets.
It is accused of mounting a “malicious” and “sustained” campaign targeting a range of global companies.
One Whitehall official said targeting such large organisations gave the hackers a “jumping-off point” into the wider corporate world, making it hard to assess just how far they had penetrated.
“It is the very widespread targeting and sometimes deep penetration of globally significant companies. The tentacles of this campaign are vast.
“You can see the initial intrusion but it becomes harder to track secondary and tertiary intrusions, so there is an element about this technically which we will not know.”
Court papers filed in Manhattan federal court allege the hackers were able to breach the computers of more than 45 entities in 12 states. The victims were in a variety of industries from aviation and space to pharmaceutical technology.
Prosecutors charge that the hackers were able to steal “hundreds of gigabytes” of data.
Hacking targets in the US included the Navy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and companies involved aviation, space and satellite technology, an indictment said.