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UK Imposes Immediate Sanctions After Chinese-Backed Cyber-Attacks

UK Imposes Immediate Sanctions After Chinese-Backed Cyber-Attacks
REUTERS


In a landmark move, the United Kingdom has imposed sanctions against individuals and entities implicated in a series of cyber-attacks, which the government has attributed to Chinese-backed operatives.

The sanctions follow a detailed investigation by the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) that linked the attacks to China's Ministry of State Security.

The UK government has formally accused China of orchestrating "malicious" cyber campaigns targeting MPs and the Electoral Commission.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden announced the sanctions against two individuals, Zhao Guangzong and Ni Gaobin, and one entity, Wuhan Xiaoruizhi Science and Technology Company Ltd.

These parties are believed to be connected to the Advanced Persistent Threat Group 31 (APT31), a group with alleged ties to Chinese state-sponsored cyber espionage.

Between August 2021 and October 2022, the cyber-attacks aimed to access the personal details of MPs, peers critical of Beijing, and the Electoral Commission's databases.

Approximately 40 million voters' personal data were compromised during the breach. However, Dowden reassured the public that the security of elections had not been compromised.

The sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans, barring the individuals from entering or remaining in the UK and prohibiting UK citizens and businesses from dealing with their funds.

"The UK will not tolerate malicious cyber activity," stated Dowden. "It is an absolute priority for the UK government to protect our democratic system and values."

The Chinese ambassador is expected to be summoned to explain China's conduct in these incidents.

The MPs targeted are members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, which scrutinizes Beijing's activities. Notable figures such as former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, former minister Tim Loughton, and the SNP's Stewart McDonald have faced harassment and attempted hacks.

McDonald criticized the UK's response as inadequate, urging the government to designate China as a threat.

The US has echoed the UK's actions by announcing criminal charges against the same Chinese nationals for their involvement in cyber operations threatening the national security of the United States and its allies.

This series of events marks a critical juncture in international cyber diplomacy.

The UK's decisive action against the cyber-attacks sends a strong message to potential aggressors:

interference in the democratic processes and institutions of the UK will have serious repercussions.