Attacks by Chinese hackers against telecom companies have risen in the last year, a troubling sign that could mean China is pushing back against the U.S. decision to ban Huawei from installing 5G technology in the country, according to a report in Financial Times.
A report by CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity company credited with naming Russia as the culprit in the 2016 hack of the U.S. Democratic National Committee, said attacks by China were up overall, but especially against U.S. companies.
CrowdStrike attributes growing tensions between the two countries as a reason for the upswing, but also said the pinpointing of telecom companies around the globe signals a wider surge.
Co-founder and CTO Dmitri Alperovitch said that hacking activity was back to the same levels as before the U.S. and China agreed to curb economic spying.
“In terms of volume, China is by far the most active [in 2018],” Alperovitch said. “They are fully back and engaging in economic espionage across numerous industries of strategic interest to China.”
Russia, North Korea and Iran were also listed as leaders in cyber hacking in the report. The U.S. has been asking other countries to avoid Huawei and its tech because of cyber disruption and spying fears. Australia and New Zealand have agreed to block the company, but the U.K. recently decided that it could handle the risks.
Some European countries are weighing their options, because they have to balance the risks with their country’s appetites for faster communications, as well as trade relations with China.
The hackers often use a tactic called “spear fishing,” where they try to get an employee at a telecom company to open an email attachment or download a document, which will then give the hackers access to the computer.
“The use of telecom-related lures is almost certainly socially engineered to take advantage of the reliance on communications technology and the high degree of trust placed in the operators of the networks that support businesses and government organizations,” the report said.