Following the spectacular Solar Winds hack in 2020 attributed to Russian intelligence intelligence services (either or both the Foreign Intelligence Service – SVR and Military Intelligence Service – GRU), I noted that China may have also “piggy-backed” on the hacking Russian efforts. And we have increasingly been seeing evidence of just that.
The latest example of China’s growing hacking campaign occurred as a sophisticated attack on Microsoft’s widely used business email software is morphing into a global cybersecurity crisis.
Microsoft has stated that this massive attack began with a Chinese government-backed hacking group, and has so far claimed at least 60,000 known victims globally, reports the LA Times. Many of them, the Times notes, “appear to be businesses caught in a wide net the attackers cast as Microsoft worked to shut down the hack.”
“The European Banking Authority became one of the latest victims as it said Sunday that access to personal data through emails held on the Microsoft server may have been compromised. Others identified so far include banks and electricity providers,” explained the Times.
But the Chinese hack goes much deeper. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on Twitter that the White House was “closely tracking” the reports that the vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange were being used in “potential compromises of U.S. think tanks and defense industrial base entities.”
However, the White House needs to do more than just “track’ these attacks. This rapidly escalating attack comes months after the SolarWinds breaches by suspected Russian intelligence. The Biden administration has focused primarily on the Russian hacks and plans retaliation against Moscow. The New York Times reports that:
The first major move is expected over the next three weeks, officials said, with a series of clandestine actions across Russian networks that are intended to be evident to President Vladimir V. Putin and his intelligence services and military but not to the wider world.
The officials added that these clandestine actions would be combined with economic sanctions — though, as the NYT notes, “there are few truly effective sanctions left to impose.” This, especially after the extensive and expansive list of sanctions imposed by President Trump against Russia.
But now the Biden administration must face the reality that Russia isn’t the only hacking threat, something Team Trump repeatedly emphasized. Russia may not even be the most serious hacking threat.
These latest Chinese backed cyberattacks may force a reluctant Joe Biden to finally accept this reality and strike back at America’s other major, if not primary, adversary: China.