back to article UK and chums call out Chinese Ministry of State Security for Hafnium Microsoft Exchange Server attacks

The Microsoft Exchange Server attacks earlier this year were "systemic cyber sabotage" carried out by Chinese state hacking crews including private contractors working for a spy agency, the British government has said. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said this morning in a statement: "The cyber attack on Microsoft Exchange …

  1. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Expect more of these. The Chinese Communist Party (CPP) will continue to flaunt international law as it is in their best interest to do so. These men will never leave China, unless the CPP can use them as leverage in other matters and they'll be sacrificed in the name of Mao.

    The CPP is power hungry, unapologetic and oppression personified. They should not be encouraged or coddled. Every free nation on Earth needs to say "No, stop." and turn off the economic pipeline to the Chinese economy until they play fairly.

    They will respect nothing else.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      >They will respect nothing else.

      We should send a gunboat

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Those are called "freedom of navigation" exercises, and we do.

        But it's only one small piece of what is needed.

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          I suspect he was suggesting more that we send a modern Gordon of Peking.

          Worth a read of that action, actually (a jaw-dropping debacle for China's armies), and indeed of any China military effort over the last couple of thousand years. China is outstanding at playing posturing threatening aggressive brinkmanship games, but in combat it's hopeless. Its only successes are vs pre-weakened or vastly outnumbered counterparties ; otherwise it gets its arse handed to it. They utterly rely on other countries wishing to avoid war.

          And it works very well for them.

          1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

            You might have claimed the same about Russia prior to WWII.

            Times change, and the military buildup of China today can be compared to what Japan did post-Perry.

            Their hypersonic torpedoes are a major threat to our carriers. They are trying, and to a significant extent succeeding, in buying up the best & brightest for military AI.

            And once you can get an AI close to a human in an F-15, you redesign the thing to routinely pull 8-10gs--and dance rings around anything that cares about the human cargo.

            As for computers, who cares who is doing the design? What percent of global manufacturing of components is currently happening there?

            Moreover, their research in biowarfare and human genetic engineering proceeds at full steam while we have almost none.

            Remember, war is only something you do if you cannot achieve the changes you want on the ground without it.

            They are using the openness of our society to fund chunks of pro-China activity in our major universities--and social media, to include the comments here.

            Losing generals are well known for fighting the last war. The next one looks scarier by the year.

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      "The Chinese Communist Party (CPP) will continue to flaunt international law as it is in their best interest to do so."

      Well I mean when you consider America, the UK, Israel etc and how they treat international law, I'd say they're in good company wouldn't you?

      Anybody for a game of stuxnet?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      flaunt international law

      Um, I think, from context, that you mean "flout"

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Only indirectly related, but the Chinese market comprises ~2% (2 billion USD) of Microsofts' revenue. MS also has several research campuses in four different Chinese cities.

      > Microsoft Asia-Pacific Research and Development Group (ARD) is a complete innovation chain of fundamental research, technology incubation, product development, and strategic partnerships. It is the largest and most comprehensive R&D base for Microsoft outside of the United States. At ARD, over 3000 scientists and engineers work at the cutting-edge of technology, innovating solutions that impact millions of people around the world on a daily basis. With campuses in major urban centers across the region, our engineers and researchers span Microsoft’s major engineering divisions, including Cloud and Enterprise, Search Technology Center (Bing), Microsoft Office Division, Microsoft Research, and hardware for products like Xbox and PCs (Microsoft Asia Center for Hardware).

      [1] Qualcomm veteran to replace Alain Crozier as Microsoft Greater China boss, Tech Crunch

      [2] Microsoft Asia-Pacific R&D - web page

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        When I was at IBM in the early 2000, I took to referring to us as "rope sellers". For the kids out there, it's a reference to a quote by Karl Marx, "When it comes time to hang the capitalists, one of them will sell us the rope."

        1. martinusher Silver badge

          The quote is attributed to Lenin, not Marx. Its an important detail because Karl Marx's mostly theoretical work predates Bolsheviks like Lenin by at least 50 years, i.e. a generation or more. Marx's work wasn't unique in the sense that other thinkers predate him -- you could say he belongs in the same Enlightenment tradition that brought us the US Constitution, the French Revolution and so on.

          Why is this important? Everyone likes to diss Marx but few, if any, can refute him. He just asks the questions. He has some vague, idealistic, notion about revolutionary change but its typical for the era, hopelessly impractical. But the questions and the need for answers remains, as relevant as ever. Our rulers' greatest fear -- as it was in the 1840s -- is that someone, somewhere, might find a winning formula, a way to take all that productive effort and using it primarily for the benefit of the people making that effort.

          1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

            Problem with all such problem complainants like Marx is that they all focus on superficialities. Rather like arguing over racing stripes rather than the engine.

            Precisely the same core issue (some people "win" disproportionately and at other people's expense) is observed in every single socioeconomic structure tried in the entirety of human history and apparently prehistory.

            The problem is not capitalism.

            {Capitalism or totalitarianism on the individual freedom-of-choice basis ; democracy, socialism, aristocracy, communism, feudalism, monarchy, oligarchy, or representative democracy on the power basis. (Communism is just totalitarian aristocracy albeit explicitly lying to the plebs that really the plebs are in control. And the same core issue arises.)}

            1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

              (Actually the FULL core issue which leads to complainants is in two parts: 1/ some people "win" disproportionately and at other people's expense ; 2/ and I'm not one of them.

              Communism explicitly maintains as-is the first issue, but vigorously addresses the second issue.

              )

            2. Denarius Silver badge

              distribution

              indeed. See Prices Law and its relation, Pareto Principle

          2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
            IT Angle

            When it comes to revolutions I agree with Orwell

            That the revolution is led by the middle classes saying to the proles "rise up look how badly the aristos are treating you", then once the aristos have been safely guilotined/shot/thrown down a mineshaft and the middle class revolutionaires are in charge, suddenly we have a new bunch of aristos and the proles go back to being treated as bad or worse than they were before. and the revolutionaires make sure no one can topple them by shooting all the remaining middle class people on the basis they are 'class traitors' or something

            Stalin was good at that.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              >Stalin was good at that.

              But he also had bad points

          3. Denarius Silver badge

            theoretical ?

            nothing theoretical about demanding mass murder of officially approved hate group. Ask any Kulak, Cambodian or Ughger

          4. Denarius Silver badge

            theory

            Marx differs from most of earlier thinkers in that he did posit he had identified a single cause of all the worlds ills. Private property, hence his suggestion of collective ownership. Anyone who has used a corporate car pool knows how that ends. In common with other utopians, he claimed a supposedly simple solution to complex situations and problems. Even Plato had more details in his nightmare.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: theory

              @Denarius - no, Marx does not differ from earlier thinkers. In the history of thought he is generally categoriesed as an Old (or Right) Hegelian, much like Feuerbach.

              If what these clowns wrote wasn't such rubbish I would suggest that you actually read some of it. But since it has so little value just read a summary of the history of 19th Century German Idealism.

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Which is why Marx has been refuted dozens of times? Or the fact that Marx is warmed over Hegelism that somehow considers an abstract disembodied being called "history" which is determining the fate of the world.

            Then you actually get into economic analysis of Marx and realise that he actually has not idea how money or markets work. This is even after he had been living in London with the ideas of Adam Smith being widely known.

            Marx predicted the proletarian revolution would occur in England and Belgium first and last in backward rural societies like the Russian Empire and China. He got that right also didn't he?

    5. Denarius Silver badge

      Not a hope

      The ruins of the Wests appetite for cheap anything, (toys, IT,services) and idiots elected mean the world depends on China. The cost of rebuilding industries is not acceptable to anyone. However, what can be done is basic IT security. Governments and businesses can isolate their networks. Those devices that need internet access should be standalone within the organisation or dedicated dumb as possible hardware. Think POS that can only connect to its bank server. Seen it done in large government department that had massive external traffic.

      As for Exchange software, horse bolted 30 years ago. Anyone else remember trying to secure Sendmail ? Nearest thing to human readable line noise someone said. At least it worked, but newer MTAs springing up suggest its weaknesses were recognised and something possibly better tried, unlike now where corporate Alzheimers means no other option are remembered, let alone thought of.

    6. jason_derp Bronze badge

      "The CPP is power hungry, unapologetic and oppression personified. They should not be encouraged or coddled. Every free nation on Earth needs to say "No, stop." and turn off the economic pipeline to the Chinese economy until they play fairly. "

      Look, I don't want to be 'that guy', buuuut, swap out China in this paragraph for another certain country, and it sounds pretty much the same. Hell, if you swapped in that same country for the stuff China did, nobody would be surprised.

      Unless we hold ALL countries economically responsible, it doesn't really matter what people do to China. It's just weird red-scare craziness, a handy target to make everybody feel better because there's an easy target.

      It'd be a lot healthier if we all just accept that China, Russia, Israel, the USA, Australia, et al will be doing this always and for forever and we all just have to get used to that.

    7. sabroni Silver badge

      re: The CPP is power hungry, unapologetic and oppression personified.

      Like that hasn't been western international policy for the last 100 years.

      Still, nothing like a bit of xenophobia to keep the plebs in line.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Of course, this is absolutely nothing to do with trying to distract from the bad news that's likely to roll out of the NSO debacle

  2. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge
    Trollface

    Who's really at fault ?

    I've really got to ask who's at fault here? It really seems that Microsoft have done a great job on shifting blame from "Our software continues to have major security holes" to "It's their fault for exploiting the holes in our software"

    1. naive Silver badge

      Re: Who's really at fault ?

      Spot on, those organizations losing "Intellectual property" have too little of themselves when they choose using the Emmental Cheese from Redmond and expect their information to be safe.

      The MS marketing machine is truly brilliant, they get away with anything without ever getting sued for selling subpar products against high prices.

  3. Woodnag Silver badge

    "highly likely"

    highly likely... so not a solid attribution then.

    Those aluminium tubes were rated higher than that.

  4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Mad

    Imagine being a handler, going to work on Monday to watch your plants only to find out nothing is coming in. Then spending the whole week on the phone with Microsoft asking when they are going to get carpenters to fit a new backdoor in, only to hear "Use the print spooler!"

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How did they find out it was China?

    I mean, sure they can see if connections come from China, but what if the bad guys are from Russia or somewhere and they break into China first and do it from there, just to cover their tracks? I have no doubt that the experts have a reason to say it was China, but I'm curious what that reason is. Not just "that's who would benefit from the attack" surely?

    1. Eponymous Bastard
      Facepalm

      Re: How did they find out it was China?

      I imagine that those pointing their fingers have access to rather more sophisticated tools than Whois . . .

      I'll get my foil coat to repel the heat which is not uncommon in July in the UK.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How did they find out it was China?

        >I imagine that those pointing their fingers have access to rather more sophisticated tools than Whois . . .

        Yes they have a large whiteboard with the enemy of the day written on it.

        It still faintly says Russia where somebody crossed out USSR

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How did they find out it was China?

      Just a process of elimination, we have some embarrassing news coming, so what can we give to the press that would distract the public - need to have something that was dangerous but thwarted - but don't want to suggest its a country that we've painted as inferior to the choices were Russia or China - now, as Russia has already been accused of cybercrime, to accuse again would imply we are somewhat incompetent at combating them so China is the obvious choice.

      Far more fun looking for the news that this announcement is designed to distract from

  6. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

    I am shocked, shocked to find that rampant IP theft has been going on in here.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How's this...

    Since China built a physical wall to keep out the rest of the world, why not enforce it to keep them inside it?

    Blockade the nation so they can't import or export anything to any U.N. member, can't get off any plane nor boat into any other U.N. nation, and physicly cut all their (undersea) fiber optic cables to prevent them from falling back to doing it all online. Then start knocking their communications satelites out of the sky to severely throttle their ability to use sat.uplinks instead of the hard wired cable. Literally cut them off physicly from the rest of the civilized world & leave them nobody but umpty-nth world partners that aren't members of the U.N. and probably don't have the political will to refuse Chinese influence.

    Tell all U.N. members to pull out of China immediately. Do no further business with them in any way, shape, or form. No technology, no agriculture, no minerals, no manufacturing, *nothing*. Cut them off from doing business with anyone else & refuse to give in to their demands.

    You can't be a super power if the rest of the world refuses to let you come out of your home to play with the adults.

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: You can't be a super power if the rest of the world refuses to let you come out of your home

      *pfft* Tell that to Kim Jong-un.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You can't be a super power if the rest of the world refuses to let you come out of your home

        Do the same to him & his little slice of the world. Blockade it, physically cut it off, refuse to allow any imports or exports, don't allow any North Koreans to get off any boat or plane into a U.N. nation, make sure to block all their tunnels so they can't sneak out, sever all their land lines, knock down all their satelites, & if that little dictator launches a (nuclear) missile then carpet bomb the place into nonexistence.

        Harsh? Yes. But you don't give in just because he can launch a (nuclear) missile, you point blank tell him to "Shape up, fly right, or we Darwin your sorry little ass. Don't think we can't, we're the motherfuckin' U.N. beeeeoytch!"

        Ditto to China. Yes they can launch (nuclear) missiles, but the U.N. can quite literally turn the entire rest of the civilized _planet_ against them to retaliate. How long do you imagine China lasting if the rest of the world decides "Enough is enough. You want to play hardball? We'll play hardball. You've just painted a giant bullseye on your forehead dumbass. Bend over & kiss it goodbye in 3... 2... 1..."?

        China has nukes yes, but they are only a single nation. If the entire rest of the U.N. decides that China needs to be given a lesson in good global citizenship, it's literally a situation that China can't win.

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: You can't be a super power if the rest of the world refuses to let you come out of your home

          Speaking of China and nukes...

          seen this? Put out on a CCP-/PLA-related mouthpiece -- not official, keeps getting deleted then reposted by party members. This nice person has translated it with subtitles.

          "China must nuke Japan if it intervenes in Taiwan"

    2. jason_derp Bronze badge

      Re: How's this...

      "Since China built a physical wall to keep out the rest of the world, why not enforce it to keep them inside it?"

      Because the goal is to punish China, and the people who care most about what enters and leave China aren't the chinese. They're fine without us in comparison to everybody else without them.

  8. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Mushroom

    USA! USA! USA!

    Meanwhile, a US criminal hosting outfit calling itself FranTech Solutions, BuyVM, PONYNET, and other names is one of the world's largest source of brute-force attacks, malware, and ransomware. Their product is cheap bulletproof VPS so hackers can buy anonymity.

    Home hotspots of the day:

    https://www.abuseipdb.com/check-block/205.185.127.0/24

    https://www.abuseipdb.com/check-block/205.185.125.0/24

    https://www.abuseipdb.com/check-block/107.189.1.0/24

  9. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Talking about APT31

    French CERT published indicators of compromises for an ongoing attack from APT31.

    You can find these IOC here: https://www.cert.ssi.gouv.fr/ioc/CERTFR-2021-IOC-003/

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