China slams Microsoft hack accusations as ‘groundless and irresponsible’

The New Zealand flag flying outside of Parliament
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China has hit back at the New Zealand government after it joined international condemnation of the country, claiming that there were links between Chinese state-sponsored actors APT40 and malicious cyber activity in New Zealand.

The spokesperson of the Chinese embassy in the country called the accusation “groundless and irresponsible”.

“China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition and has already lodged solemn representation with the NZ government,” the spokesperson said.

They added that the Chinese government is a staunch defender of cyber security and firmly opposes all forms of cyber attacks and crimes in accordance with the law. The spokesperson said that making accusations without proof is “a malicious smear”.

The spokesperson urged New Zealand to “abandon the Cold War mentality” and work with others to tackle the challenge of cyber incidents through dialogue and cooperation, instead of “manipulating political issues under the pretext of cyber security and mudslinging at others”.

These comments were made after New Zealand joined international condemnation of the alleged exploitation of the Microsoft Exchange Platform by Chinese state-sponsored actors.

“We call for an end to this type of malicious activity, which undermines global stability and security, and we urge China to take appropriate action in relation to such activity emanating from its territory,” said Andrew Little, New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) minister.


TA551/Shathak threat research

A detailed report on the cyber crime group and its attacks


The GCSB also revealed that around 30% of serious malicious cyber activity against New Zealand organisations recorded by the National Cyber Security Centre contains indicators that can be linked to various state-sponsored actors.

The UK government formally accused the Chinese Ministry of State Security of being behind the Microsoft Exchange Server attack, which was estimated to have affected over a quarter of a million servers worldwide. The UK, along with other counterparts in Europe and the US, accused the Chinese government of ignoring “repeated calls to end its reckless campaign, instead allowing its state-backed actors to increase the scale of their attacks and act recklessly when caught”.

Zach Marzouk

Zach Marzouk is a former ITPro, CloudPro, and ChannelPro staff writer, covering topics like security, privacy, worker rights, and startups, primarily in the Asia Pacific and the US regions. Zach joined ITPro in 2017 where he was introduced to the world of B2B technology as a junior staff writer, before he returned to Argentina in 2018, working in communications and as a copywriter. In 2021, he made his way back to ITPro as a staff writer during the pandemic, before joining the world of freelance in 2022.