China-backed cyberattacks to be sanctioned

The UK government has formally accused China of being behind ‘malicious’ cyber attacks on MPs and the Electoral Commission. Two individuals and a company have been sanctioned for the cyberattacks.

British Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden suggests that they were behind attempts to access the data of MPs critical of Beijing and potentially 40 million voters.

The Chinese Embassy in the UK said the allegations were ‘completely unfounded’ and amounted to ‘malicious slander’.

The two Chinese nationals sanctioned by the UK are Zhao Guangzong and Ni Gaobin, and the company is Wuhan Xiaoruizhi Science and Technology Company Ltd, which the British government says works for the Chinese state-affiliated cyber espionage group Advanced Persistent Threat Group 31 (APT31).

China denies the allegations

The UK sanctions will freeze the assets of UK citizens and businesses, preventing them from using their funds or resources. A travel ban will also prevent them from entering or remaining in the UK.

“The UK will not tolerate malicious cyber activity. Protecting our democratic system and values is an absolute priority for the UK government. We call on China to account for its conduct in these incidents.”

The US said the same two Chinese nationals were among a group of seven people in New York facing charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Authorities in New Zealand have also accused China of targeting the parliamentary network in 2021, with the country’s defense minister, Judith Collins, saying the Chinese state-sponsored group known as APT40 was behind the hacking activity. However, New Zealand said it would not impose sanctions because it was not part of the government’s legislative agenda.

The cyberattack on the UK Electoral Commission between August 2021 and October 2022 was one of the most significant in British history, the BBC reported: Not only databases of names and addresses were accessed, but also ‘control systems’ and sensitive emails between election officials across six by-elections.

The Chinese Embassy issued a statement on all this and rejected UK claims of Chinese state involvement: “The UK’s baseless exaggeration of the so-called ‘Chinese cyberattacks’ and announcement of sanctions is pure political manipulation and malicious slander. We have no intention or need to interfere in the UK’s internal affairs.”

China also called on the UK to immediately stop spreading false information about the country.

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