China denies Dutch defence ministry espionage software claim

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The Chinese embassy in The Hague has denied Dutch defence ministry claims that Beijing is behind espionage software found on a ministry network, saying cyber security is a common challenge facing all countries.

“China always firmly opposes and cracks down on cyber attacks in all forms in accordance with the law,” the ministry said in a short press statement.  “We will not allow any country or individual using Chinese infrastructure to engage in such illegal activities.”

The military security service MIVD said on Tuesday that the Chinese authorities had managed to access a small defence ministry computer network last year and published a detailed technical report as a “warning to others”.

“I think we have to assume that this happens more widely, in both the Netherlands and other countries. So it is a real risk that we have to guard against,” defence minister Kajsa Ollongren said.

The malware used to break into the systems created a ‘back door”, through which information could be collected, the military security service MIVD said.

The MIVD said it is sharing extensive information about the malware online, so that companies and organisations can check whether they too are victims. If so, they are being advised to report to the National Cyber Security Centre. The only way to remove the malware is reinstall everything, the MIVD said. 

The malware was found at the defence ministry on a stand-alone computer network, which the MIVD says has no connection to the rest of the defence network.

The victim network had fewer than 50 users and was used in the research and development of unclassified projects and joint projects with two third-party research institutes. These organisations have been notified of the incident, the MIVD said.

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