The Chinese government on Friday dismissed as “far-fetched and unprofessional” a report by a US security firm that blamed China-linked hackers for attacks on hundreds of public facilities, schools and other targets around the world.
A State Department spokesman reiterated allegations that Washington is conducting hacking attacks and lamented that the cybersecurity industry rarely reports on them.
Mandiant’s report comes ahead of a visit by Foreign Minister Antony Blinken to Beijing aimed at restoring ties strained by disputes over human rights, security and other annoyances. Blinken’s visit was planned earlier this year but was canceled after a Chinese spy balloon flew over the United States, according to the US government.
According to the report, hackers targeted emails to conduct “espionage activities in support of the People’s Republic of China.”
“The relevant content is far-fetched and unprofessional,” Chinese spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
“American cybersecurity companies continue to publish reports of so-called cyberattacks by other countries that have been made complicit in the US government’s political slander of other countries,” Wang said.
According to Mandiant, the latest attacks exploited a vulnerability in a Barracuda Networks email system and targeted foreign ministries in Southeast Asia, other government agencies, trade offices and academic organizations in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
It described the attacks as the largest known cyberespionage campaign by a “China Nexus threat actor” since a Microsoft Exchange attack in 2021. Tens of thousands of computers were affected.
China, along with the US and Russia, is considered a leader in the development of computer hacking for military use. Security advisers say the military also supports hobbyist hacking clubs that could work for outsiders.
Barracuda announced on June 6 that some of its email security devices were hacked back in October, giving intruders a backdoor to compromised networks.
Mandiant said the email attacks focused on issues of priority to China, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. It said the hackers were looking for email accounts of people who worked for governments of political or strategic interest to China at the time they attended diplomatic meetings.
Earlier this year, Microsoft said state-backed Chinese hackers had targeted US critical infrastructure and could potentially lay the technical foundation for a possible disruption of critical US-Asia communications in future crises.