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Chinese hackers are using sanctions imposed on Russia as a lure for espionage operations, according to research from security firm Check Point Research. Security services are at their most alert for this kind of operation, as backdoors and other malicious tools are built into the software used by defense installations around the world.
The article includes three main takeaways. First, China is using Russia's ongoing sanctions against it to develop black operations that target Russia's defense sector. Second, Russian security institutions are ramping up defenses in order to protect themselves from such operations. The third takeaway is that China has a long track-record of cyberattacks against American interests, dating back to 2008 when they launched the "Grizzly Steppe" attack targeted at US intelligence agencies and industrial infrastructure providers.
The cyber espionage efforts described in the article primarily involve cyber intrusions into university computer networks. A report released on January 30, 2018 by publicly-funded Russian news agency TASS said that Russian federal agencies were compromised and eavesdropped on by unidentified shadowy Chinese hackers after a month of digital surveillance. The report said that the attack was conducted in October 2017, but it wasn't until January 18, 2018 when Chinese cyber spies were caught and identified in the operations.
"The cyber raids of the Chinese foreign ministry have made it clear that they will not tolerate any actions by China’s commercial rivals, such as Google and Facebook, to sway public opinion in favor of their domestic Internet businesses," said The Wall Street Journal in October 2017.
In contrast to the allegations reported by TASS, some Chinese cyber espionage operations have been conducted against American targets under apparent legal cover.