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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."

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Jan 14, 2022 - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Tech giants play the blame game

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

With regulators around the world looking at reining in Big Tech, the companies in the crosshairs are increasingly eager to point out their rivals' sins.

Why it matters: Investigations in the U.S. and around the world are targeting Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon. To make their case, regulators need to show the companies are squelching competition — a task the tech companies may be aiding with their infighting.

Updated Jan 14, 2022 - World

Most of Ukraine's government sites back online after "massive" cyberattack

Ukraine's Presidential Office Building in Kyiv in 2019. Photo: Sergei Chuzavkov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

About 90% of Ukrainian government websites that were knocked offline on Friday by a cyberattack of unidentified origins were functioning again, Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian President's Office, said during a Eurasia Center event.

Why it matters: The cyberattack, which Yermak said did not target country's critical infrastructure, came less than a day after key security talks failed to ease tensions between the U.S. and Europe and Russia.

Updated 3 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker