June 24, 2024

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New Zealand Voices Concerns Over Chinese Cyber Hack; China Denies Allegations

The New Zealand government expressed its dismay to the Chinese government regarding its suspected involvement in a state-sponsored cyber intrusion targeting New Zealand’s parliament in 2021, as disclosed by the country’s intelligence services. This development emerges amid mounting accusations from Britain and the US accusing China of engaging in widespread cyber espionage activities, which both New Zealand and Australia have denounced.

Winston Peters, New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, conveyed the nation’s disapproval of such foreign interference and urged China to abstain from similar activities in the future. Concerns about cyber operations attributed to Chinese-sponsored groups targeting democratic institutions in New Zealand and the United Kingdom were formally raised with the Chinese ambassador.

Responding to these accusations, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in New Zealand rebuffed the allegations, denouncing them as baseless and irresponsible. The embassy expressed its dissatisfaction with the New Zealand authorities, categorically denying any interference in the internal affairs of other nations, including New Zealand.

Earlier on Tuesday, New Zealand’s communications security bureau (GCSB) linked the cyber intrusion to a Chinese state-sponsored entity identified as Advanced Persistent Threat 40 (APT40). The GCSB asserted that APT40, affiliated with the Ministry of State Security, accessed sensitive information crucial for the effective functioning of New Zealand’s government. However, the GCSB clarified that no sensitive or strategic data had been compromised. Instead, it was suspected that APT40 removed technical information that could facilitate more intrusive activities.

According to the GCSB, 23% of the 316 malicious cyber events targeting nationally significant organizations in the previous fiscal year were attributed to state-sponsored actors. While specific attributions were not made, New Zealand condemned cyber activities carried out by the Russian government last year.

In a coordinated effort, US and British officials announced charges and sanctions against China, accusing Beijing of an extensive cyber espionage campaign targeting millions of individuals, including lawmakers, journalists, and defence contractors. 

Australia echoed concerns over the persistent targeting of democratic institutions and processes, asserting that such behaviour is unacceptable and must cease. In 2019, Australian intelligence attributed a cyber attack on its national parliament and political parties to China, although the government did not officially disclose the findings.