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China Spies Were Behind Massive Microsoft Hack That Hit Tens of Thousands of American Companies, Says U.S.

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The Biden Administration and several allies plan to allege Monday morning that China’s civilian intelligence service is responsible for a sweeping hacking campaign that hit tens of thousands of companies around the world earlier this year.

According to a senior Biden administration official, hackers affiliated with China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) conducted the massive operation, which took advantage of security flaws in Microsoft Exchange Server software, or Microsoft’s email software. The attack was so widespread that the White House National Security Council at the time whipped up an emergency response group to address the offensive.

The U.S. and allies plan to lay out how the MSS has been hiring criminal hackers on a contractual basis to conduct Beijing’s hacking operations, according to the official.

“MSS is using, knowledgeably, criminal contract hackers to conduct unsanctioned cyber operations globally,” the senior administration official said during a call on Sunday.

The National Security Agency, FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency (CISA) have spent months warning organizations about the Microsoft Exchange Server hacking, but this is the first time the U.S. government is formally attributing the campaign to the Chinese government. Microsoft security researchers had previously attributed the operation to actors operating in China, but did not detail a link with the MSS.

The European Union, NATO, Japan, and members of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance—the U.K., Australia, Canada, and New Zealand—will also be criticizing MSS’s hacking Monday, according to the official. It’s the first time NATO is publicly attributing this kind of activity to China.

The U.S. and allies also plan to allege the contracted hackers working for MSS have been running hacking campaigns for their own personal profit on the side. Some of the intelligence agency’s hackers are running ransomware operations, the official said. In one case the hackers have targeted an American firm and made a ransom demand........

© The Daily Beast

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