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Accusations of Chinese Cyberattacks Downplayed by UK Government

Numerous China hawks from legislatures worldwide who were targeted discovered emails from the hackers in their inboxes.

Accusations have been made against the UK government for downplaying the impact of cyberattacks from China following an incident where hackers targeted a group of lawmakers critical of Beijing.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden announced sanctions against two Chinese hackers from the APT31 group, affiliated with the state, for attacks on the UK’s electoral system and Parliament, in coordination with the United States.

Luke de Pulford, executive director of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), raised concerns about discrepancies in the information provided by the UK and the United States regarding the cyberattacks, pointing out that only five parliamentarians were briefed while 43 Parliament emails were affected, and that the deputy prime minister failed to mention that IPAC members were also targeted by the hackers.

He disputed Mr. Dowden’s claim that the attacks on Parliament were unsuccessful, emphasizing that IPAC was formed in response to the threat posed by the Chinese communist regime.

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Mr. De Pulford highlighted the lack of mention of IPAC during the briefing to Parliament on March 25 and shared information from a U.S. Department of Justice indictment which revealed that the hackers had targeted individuals associated with IPAC, allowing them to track delivery metrics on emails and collect data from victims who opened the emails.

This method, called “tracking pixels,” is commonly used by advertisers to gather information.

Targets of the campaign included every EU member of IPAC and 43 UK parliamentary accounts, mostly members of IPAC or those vocal on issues related to the Chinese regime.

He questioned the disparity in information released by the UK and the United States and why neither government informed IPAC that its members were targeted.

Reporting a pixel attack in mid-2021 that affected the entire IPAC, Mr. De Pulford also mentioned an APT31 attack on IPAC’s Belgian co-chair and stressed that the group was unaware of the connection between the two incidents.

He noted that IPAC members in the UK began to worry in 2024 after being briefed on a cyber attack involving five parliamentarians.

‘Dozens’ Emails Found

The deputy prime minister claimed the reconnaissance email campaign against parliamentarians was unsuccessful due to Parliament’s cyber security measures blocking it.

Mr. De Pulford stated that “dozens” of IPAC members found emails from the same domain used in the attack on Mr. Cogolati in their inboxes.

He also mentioned that two non-UK IPAC legislators were compromised in 2021 after the reconnaissance campaign, indicating a potential connection.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr. De Pulford expressed his belief that the situation was downplayed to an unacceptable extent.

According to the FT, “at least 10 politicians at Westminster” discovered emails sent by the hackers.

The Parliamentary Security Department blocked the pixel tracker after identifying the reconnaissance activity, and the presence of emails in parliamentary inboxes itself did not pose a security risk.

In a statement to The Epoch Times, the government confirmed that the attack was successfully mitigated and emphasized the importance of defending democratic processes against malicious activity.

The use of tracking pixels in emails is not inherently malicious and is commonly used by legitimate businesses and organizations.

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