For the best part of a decade, US officials and cybersecurity companies have been naming and shaming hackers they believe work for the Chinese government. These hackers have stolen terabytes of data from companies like pharmaceutical and video game firms, compromised servers, stripped security protections, and highjacked hacking tools, according to security experts. And as China’s alleged hacking has grown more brazen, individual Chinese hackers face indictments. However, things may be changing.
Since the start of 2022, China’s Foreign Ministry and the country’s cybersecurity firms have increasingly been calling out alleged US cyberespionage. Until now, these allegations have been a rarity. But the disclosures come with a catch: They appear to rely on years-old technical details, which are already publicly known and don’t contain fresh information. The move may be a strategic change for China as the nation tussles to cement its position as a tech superpower.
“These are useful materials for China’s tit-for-tat propaganda campaigns when they faced US accusation and indictment of China’s cyberespionage activities,” says Che Chang, a cyber threat analyst at the Taiwan-based cybersecurity firm TeamT5.