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China’s military is believed to have instructed a group of hackers to conduct cyber attacks on about 200 Japanese research institutions and companies. reported, citing unidentified people in a police investigation.
Investigators found that a member of the Communist Party of China made contracts under a false name for rental servers in Japan that were used in the attacks on the Japanese space agency JAXA in 2016, the broadcaster said on Tuesday.
Investigators believe that the cyber attacks were carried out by a group known as Tick, under the instructions of the People’s Liberation Army. Two men involved with contracts for servers left Japan, NHK said.
A Chinese systems engineer in his 30s, who is a member of the Chinese Communist Party, was referred to prosecutors for his alleged involvement in the attacks, Kyodo News reported, citing unidentified investigative sources.
The reported allegations, the latest in a series of similar incidents, come amid increasingly difficult relations between Japan and its largest trading partner. The topic of ties with China dominated Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s summit agenda with US President Joe Biden in Washington last week.
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Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Katsunobu Kato, declined to comment on the investigation. He said at a regular news conference on Tuesday that cyber attacks on infrastructure are becoming more organized and that the government considers the response to these incidents to be an important issue.
Responding to a question about the NHK report on the alleged suspect at a regular press conference in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said he was not aware of the case. Wang later added that cyberspace is made up of many actors whose origins are difficult to trace and warned against creating charges in cybersecurity cases.
“When designating an incident, there must be ample evidence. It cannot be based on presumption, ”he said. “We are against other countries that defame cybersecurity or use this issue to serve their despicable political agenda.”
Cyber attacks are a common threat to all countries and China was also a victim, he added.
A JAXA spokesman confirmed that it was an unauthorized access that appeared to be a cyber attack, but was not damaged, according to NHK. Japan has sought to strengthen its cyber defenses in recent months.
– With the help of Go Onomitsu and Colum Murphy
(Updates with comments from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the seventh paragraph)