US and allies officially accuse China of Microsoft Exchange attacks

US and allies, including the European Union, the United Kingdom, and NATO, are officially blaming China for this year’s widespread Microsoft Exchange hacking campaign.

These early 2021 cyberattacks targeted over a quarter of a million Microsoft Exchange servers, belonging to tens of thousands of organizations worldwide.

The Biden administration attributes with a high degree of confidence that malicious cyber actors affiliated with PRC’s MSS conducted cyber espionage operations utilizing the zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange Server disclosed in early March 2021.

In some cases, we are aware that PRC government-affiliated cyber operators have conducted ransomware operations against private companies that have included ransom demands of millions of dollars, the White House added.

The attack on Microsoft Exchange software was highly likely to enable large-scale espionage, including acquiring personally identifiable information and intellectual property, the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) also said today.

The National Cyber Security Centre – which is a part of GCHQ – assessed that it was highly likely that a group known as HAFNIUM, which is associated with the Chinese state, was responsible for the activity.

The UK added that the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) is also behind Chinese state-backed hacking groups tracked as APT40 and APT31.

The NSA, CISA, and FBI also issued a joint advisory containing more than 50 tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) that Chinese state-sponsored cyber actors have used in attacks targeting the US and allied networks.

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