Dec 6, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Microsoft seizes websites from Chinese hacking group

Microsoft company logo is seen during the SmartCity Expo World Congress 2021

Microsoft company logo is seen during the SmartCity Expo World Congress 2021. Photo: Paco Freire/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Microsoft announced Monday that it has seized a number of websites that were being used by a China-based hacking firm to carry out cyberattacks in 29 countries, including the U.S.

Why it matters: Microsoft said it believed the sites "were largely being used for intelligence gathering from government agencies, think tanks and human rights organizations."

State of play: By seizing 42 websites, Microsoft successfully disrupted the hacking group's operations in its latest series of cyberattacks, per the New York Times.

  • The hacking group, known as Nickel, may carry out future attacks, but for now, "we do believe we have removed a key piece of the infrastructure the group has been relying on for this latest wave of attacks," the company said.
  • Microsoft has been tracking Nickel's activities since 2016, and monitoring these specific operations since 2019, per the press release.
  • Nickel's "highly sophisticated" attacks often consist of installing inconspicuous malware for allows for data theft and surveillance.

The big picture: Nickel has targeted both public and private sector organizations worldwide, including diplomatic organizations and foreign affairs ministries.

  • In July, the Biden administration accused the Chinese government of being behind a hacking campaign against Microsoft, the Times reported.
  • In June, FBI director Christopher Wray warned that the cyber threat against the U.S. is, "increasing almost exponentially."
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