U.S. experts claim China-linked hackers have infiltrated Vatican networks

Pierluigi Paganini July 29, 2020

U.S. cybersecurity firm revealed that China-linked hackers have infiltrated Vatican computer networks ahead of talks.

China-linked hackers have infiltrated the Vatican computer networks, reads a report published by the U.S. cybersecurity firm Recorded Future that focuses on the analysis of nation-state actors.

According to the experts, the cyber espionage campaign began in May ahead the talk between the Vatican and the Chinese government.

The hackers also targeted the Catholic diocese of Hong Kong, including the head of the Hong Kong Study Mission.

“It said the attacks began in May. The Vatican and Beijing were expected to engage in talks this year over the renewal of a landmark 2018 deal that stabilised relations between China and the Church.” reads the article published by the Reuters.

“U.S. cybersecurity firm Recorded Future said in the report that the attacks targeted the Vatican and the Catholic diocese of Hong Kong, including the head of the Hong Kong Study Mission, who is seen as Pope Francis’ de facto representative to China.”

Hackers focused on communications between the Hong Kong diocese and the Vatican. Techniques, tactics, and procedures are aligned with the ones used by China-linked APT groups.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, recently speaking at a daily news conference in Beijing, declared that its country always defended the cybersecurity and never used an offensive approach.

Beijing always denied any engagement in any nation-state campaign against foreign governments.

The Vatican, either the Hong Kong Study Mission, did not comment on the claims of the US cybersecurity firm.

“The reported hacking follows an extremely rare meeting between Beijing and the Vatican’s foreign minister earlier this year in Germany, marking the highest-level official encounter between the two sides in decades.” continues the Reuters.

“Relations between the two have been improving and they have been expected to renew the provisional two-year deal on the operation of the Catholic Church in China this September.”

A Chinese delegation is expected to visit the Vatican as part of ongoing talks, but at the time there is no indication of the exact calendar of the talks. We have also to consider the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak that could have an impact on the talks between the two states.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Vatican)

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