Cybersecurity company Qihoo 360 has accused the CIA of targeting China’s government and several of the country’s critical industries in a decade-long espionage campaign.

Why it matters: The claim comes just weeks after the US charged four Chinese military officers over the 2017 Equifax breach in which hackers stole personal data, including names and addresses, belonging to 147 million Americans.

  • China has long been accused of hacking American companies to gather intelligence and steal intellectual property.

Details: Qihoo said on Monday that between 2008 and 2019 the US may have acquired China’s “most classified business information.”

  • The company said it made the discovery by comparing the sample code it had collected to CIA hacking tools released by Wikileaks in 2017.
  • The collection of tools, dubbed Vault 7, was allegedly leaked by Joshua Adam Shulte, a former CIA employee who is on trial for disclosing classified information.
  • Qihoo said that by analyzing when the various tools were made, the company discovered that its creators are based on the east coast of the US, where the CIA is located.
  • CIA hackers targeted China’s government agencies, aviation and petroleum industries, scientific research institutions, and internet companies, Qihoo said.
  • The company speculates that the US intelligence agency could steal “important figures’ travel itinerary” through its focus on China’s aviation industry.
  • State mouthpiece the Global Times responded to the allegations, saying that they “lay bare the US’ astonishing hypocrisy in attacking China for years, while accusing China of cyber-attacks.”

Context: Chinese organizations are becoming increasingly vocal about reported attacks against the country by others.

  • Qihoo also recently claimed that South Asian hackers were using the coronavirus outbreak to target China’s medical institutions “on the frontline” of fighting the epidemic.
  • Meanwhile, China’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team said that state-backed hacking groups are garnering increased attention around the world.
  • The organization said that the number of public research reports about these groups increased by almost 360% year on year in 2018.

Chris Udemans

Christopher Udemans is a Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covers Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, and cybersecurity. You can contact him at chrisudemans [at] technode [dot] com.

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