The United States and allies including the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries condemned China (FT) for widespread cyberattacks such those on Microsoft email systems at tens of thousands of organizations. The U.S. Justice Department also unsealed an indictment against people linked to China’s state security ministry who allegedly targeted universities, governments, and companies between 2011 and 2018.
While most of the European countries accused Beijing of allowing the hackers to operate, the United States and United Kingdom said the Chinese government more directly cooperated (NYT) with them. However, the joint condemnation of China was not accompanied by sanctions, unlike the SolarWinds hack in April that resulted in U.S. sanctions on Russia. Five different Chinese diplomatic missions denounced the allegations (SCMP) as lacking evidence, with one suggesting that the United States had conducted mass eavesdropping on other countries for years.
“By imposing sanctions on Russia and organizing allies to condemn China, the [Joe] Biden administration has delved deeper into a digital Cold War with its two main geopolitical adversaries than at any time in modern history,” the New York Times’ Zolan Kanno-Youngs and David E. Sanger write.
“Even an improved triad of defense, deterrence, and disruption will sometimes fall short. The United States must therefore shift its thinking about cyber-espionage from a problem to be solved to a condition to be forever managed,” the Center for Security and Emerging Technology’s Ben Buchanan writes .