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New Zealand joins US and UK in accusing China of cyber attacks

New Zealand joins US and UK in accusing China of cyber attacks
(Photo: Andrey Rudakov / Bloomberg)

New Zealand joined the US and UK in accusing China of sponsoring malicious cyber activity targeting democratic institutions, saying its parliamentary network was breached in 2021.

The Government Communications Security Bureau has established links between a People’s Republic of China state-sponsored actor and hacking activity targeting parliamentary entities, Judith Collins, the Minister Responsible for the GCSB, said in a statement on Tuesday in Wellington.  

“The GCSB’s National Cyber Security Centre completed a robust technical assessment following a compromise of the Parliamentary Counsel Office and the Parliamentary Service in 2021, and has attributed this activity to a PRC state-sponsored group known as APT40,” Collins said. “Fortunately, in this instance, the NCSC worked with the affected organisations to contain the activity and remove the actor shortly after they were able to access the network.”

Earlier, the US and UK accused state-backed Chinese hackers of targeting politicians, companies and dissidents for years, as well as stealing troves of British voter data, in the latest revelation of cyber attacks that Washington and its allies have linked to President Xi Jinping’s government. Both the US and UK announced sanctions against two individuals as well as a firm in Wuhan, China.

In joining condemnation of China, New Zealand risks riling its largest trading partner, but the country’s new centre-right government appears to be moving closer to its traditional western partners. Australia also issued a statement on Tuesday expressing serious concerns about malicious cyber activities by China state-backed actors in the UK but said its institutions had not been impacted.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said he directed senior officials to speak to the Chinese ambassador “to lay out our position and express our concerns.”

“Foreign interference of this nature is unacceptable, and we have urged China to refrain from such activity in future,” he said.

China disputed the claims. In remarks posted on its website, the Chinese Embassy in New Zealand said it rejected outright “such groundless and irresponsible accusations” and expressed “strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition” to New Zealand’s relevant authorities.

“China stands ready to work with New Zealand to further deepen and broaden our relationship on the basis of mutual respect,” the embassy said. “We hope the New Zealand side can work in the same direction with us to properly handle our differences through constructive dialogue and communication instead of megaphone diplomacy.”

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