China targets United States with hacking contests

A new report from ETH Zurich's Center for Security Studies has revealed that China's spy agencies are using talent competitions to recruit young hackers for cyberattacks on the US. This "hack for hire" program has been described as "unlike anything we have ever seen" by cyber experts.

Beijing has banned homegrown talent from competing in international hacking competitions and created its own events, forcing Chinese hackers to compete in government-sanctioned domestic events. This gives spy agencies a pipeline of knowledge and manpower that can be exploited for use against the US and its allies.

Former top hackers from international competitions, such as Pangu Team, have been assimilated into Beijing's cybersecurity arsenal, now working for the software company Qi An Xin, which is deeply connected to China's government agencies.

According to the report, Chinese security researchers began dominating international hacking competitions after 2014, and Chinese teams' winnings at the Pwn2Own competition increased from 13% in 2014 to 79% by 2017. The Chinese government then banned researchers from international tournaments and created new events to continue harnessing their skills.

FBI Director Christopher Wray has warned of the Chinese government targeting critical American infrastructure, including water treatment plants, electrical grids, oil and gas pipelines, and transportation systems. This cyber espionage adds a new dimension to US anxiety over Chinese hacks.

In response to these threats, cybersecurity experts are calling on governments and big businesses to ensure that their cybersecurity systems are up to date and capable of withstanding sophisticated hacks. IronNet's CEO, Linda Zecher, emphasizes the importance of having strong cybersecurity defenses to protect against hostile state and non-state actors.

Overall, the report highlights the need for increased vigilance and collaboration to protect against cyber threats posed by China's espionage operations.


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