On Tuesday, New Zealand’s security minister revealed that hackers with ties to the Chinese government orchestrated a state-sponsored cyber operation targeting the country’s Parliament in 2021.

This assertion from New Zealand emerged just a day following announcements by American and British authorities regarding criminal charges and sanctions leveled against seven hackers, all believed to be residing in China. The targets of these cyberattacks included U.S. officials, journalists, corporations, pro-democracy activists, and the U.K.’s election oversight body.

Minister Judith Collins, responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), denounced the use of cyber-enabled espionage operations to interfere with democratic institutions and processes, labeling such actions as unacceptable in a media statement.

Collins further disclosed that the GCSB’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) had conducted a thorough technical assessment subsequent to the compromise of the Parliamentary Counsel Office and the Parliamentary Service in 2021. The assessment established connections to a state-sponsored entity associated with China, identified as APT40, engaging in malicious cyber activities targeting parliamentary entities in New Zealand.

Fortunately, collaboration between the NCSC and affected organizations facilitated the containment and removal of the threat shortly after network access was breached. Nonetheless, the breached networks contained crucial information vital for the effective functioning of the New Zealand government.

Despite these developments, Collins clarified that New Zealand would not follow the lead of the U.S. and U.K. in imposing sanctions on China, citing the absence of legislation permitting such penalties and no immediate plans for their introduction.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters affirmed that New Zealand’s concerns regarding foreign interference had been communicated to Chinese Ambassador Wang Xiaolong. Peters condemned such interference as unacceptable and urged China to refrain from engaging in similar activities in the future.

Peters highlighted the complexity of New Zealand’s relationship with China, acknowledging areas of cooperation for mutual benefit while reiterating the country’s commitment to addressing issues of concern consistently and predictably.

Following his recent meeting with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Peters emphasized the importance of maintaining open communication channels while remaining steadfast in addressing problematic behaviors.

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