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Hack of Japanese Military Tied to Chinese Cyberspies

  • The Washington Post reported on a 2020 hack on the Japanese military conducted by Chinese cyberspies.
  • The hack gave Chinese spies access to Japanese military plans, capabilities, and shortcomings.
  • China has been escalating its cyberattacks on foreign militaries in recent years, including the US.

China’s escalating cyber attacks aren’t limited to malware discovered in US military systems, new reporting from The Washington Post found.

The Post on Monday detailed a previously unreported hack into Japanese military networks by China’s People’s Liberation Army in 2020. The hack offered Chinese cyberspies access to Japanese military plans, capabilities, and shortcomings, the outlet reported.

“It was bad — shockingly bad,” one former U.S. military official, who was briefed on the event, told the Post. 

Japan is, strategically, the United States’ most important ally in East Asia. The news, coupled with reports from May of China installing malware into US military systems, signals a significant escalation in how the People’s Liberation Army — the military arm of China’s ruling communist party — is targeting foreign adversaries. 

The 2020 hack was among the most damaging in Japan’s recent history, with Chinese intelligence maintaining deep and pervasive access to Japanese networks into early 2021, the Post reported. 

In May, Insider previously reported, US officials indicated that investigations into Chinese malware had been underway for several months after discovering that malicious code had infiltrated US military systems across the country and abroad.

Previous cyber attacks had focused on surveillance, rather than disruption of system processes, but the latest attacks appear targeted to throw US military and civilian operations into disarray, according to military and intelligence experts.

“Over the years we have been concerned about its espionage program,” a senior U.S. official told the Post. “But China is [also] developing cyberattack capabilities that could be used to disrupt critical services in the U.S. and key Asian allies and shape decision-making in a crisis or conflict.”

While both Japanese and US officials have indicated renewed investment into digital security in the face of cyber attacks from China, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at a news conference in January that the two countries “are currently facing the most challenging and complex security environment in recent history.”

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