China has condemned the United States for carrying out “tens of thousands” of cyberattacks against it and stealing troves of sensitive data in recent years.
In a report on Monday, China’s National Computer Virus Emergency Response Center (CVERC) said the US National Security Agency (NSA) had conducted “tens of thousands of malicious attacks on network targets in China in recent years.”
It specifically held responsible the NSA’s Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO) for infiltrating the Northwestern Polytechnical University in the city of Xi’an, the capital of the central province of Shaanxi. TAO took “control of tens of thousands of network devices” of the university, including servers, routers, and network switches, it said. The targeted university was funded by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and specializes in aeronautical and space research.
“This investigation found that in recent years … TAO has carried out tens of thousands of malicious network attacks on network targets in China, and controlled tens of thousands of network devices (network servers, Internet terminals, network switches, telephone switches, routers, firewalls, etc.), stealing over 140GB of high-value data,” the report said.
Separately on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning reacted to the findings of the investigative report. “China has lodged strong opposition to the US over its intelligence agency, the National Security Agency (NSA), for launching a cyberattack on the email system belonging to a leading Chinese university.”
“As the most powerful country in cyber technology and capability, the US must immediately stop abusing its tech strength for cyber theft and attacks,” she said.
The report, which was co-authored by the private Chinese cybersecurity firm Qihoo 360, said TAO used dozens of cyber weapons and exploited previously unknown flaws in the ‘SunOS’ operating system to gain access to “core technical data”, including passwords and the operations of key network devices. TAO has “stolen over 140 gigabytes of high-value data” in recent years and received assistance from groups in Europe and South Asia, the report said.
Back in June, Xi’an authorities said they had opened an investigation into a reported cyberattack at the university that carried the hallmarks of “overseas hacking groups and unlawful elements.”
The rivalry between the United States and China has intensified in recent years, with Beijing’s growing international clout and rapid economic progress emerging as a viable counterweight to the US.
The US-led global campaign against China is an apparent move to open a new front in the cyber offensive following years of blaming Russia for cyberattacks against American organizations. Moscow has always denied involvement.