Amnesty Canada target of China-linked cyberattack

The human rights group says it is publicizing the attack to raise awareness of the risks civil society faces.

The Canadian office of human rights group Amnesty International says its English language unit was the target of a “sophisticated” hacking attempt that it believes is linked to China.

The digital security breach was first detected on October 5 when suspicious activity was detected on Amnesty’s IT infrastructure, Amnesty International Canada said in a statement on Monday.

It took immediate steps to protect the systems and investigate the source of the attack, it added.

“As a global human rights organization, we are acutely aware that we may be the target of state-sponsored attempts to disrupt or monitor our work. We will not be intimidated by this and the safety and privacy of our activists, staff, donors and stakeholders remain our top priority,” Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, said in a statement.

Preliminary results of the investigation indicated that the breach was perpetrated using tools and techniques associated with specific advanced persistent threat (APT) groups, Amnesty said.

Forensic experts from international cybersecurity firm Secureworks later established that “a Chinese state-sponsored or commissioned threat group” was likely behind the attack.

The conclusion of the forensic audit is based “on the nature of the objective information, as well as the observed tools and behaviors, which are consistent with those associated with Chinese cyberespionage threat groups,” it added.

A report released in August by cybersecurity firm Recorded Future said a hacker group known as RedAlpha, suspected of acting on behalf of the Chinese government, had conducted a years-long spying campaign against numerous governments, think tanks , news agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). ), including Amnesty.

Last year, the United States, the United Kingdom and their allies accused Chinese government-affiliated actors of a cyber attack on the Microsoft Exchange and blamed the Chinese government for a wide range of “malicious cyber activities.”

Amnesty said it had decided to speak publicly about the attack as a warning to other human rights defenders about the growing threat of digital security breaches in their work.

“This case of cyber espionage speaks to the increasingly dangerous context in which activists, journalists and civil society must navigate today,” Nivyabandi said. “Our work to investigate and denounce these events has never been more critical and relevant. We will continue to expose human rights violations wherever they occur and denounce governments’ use of digital surveillance to stifle human rights.”

Amnesty said no evidence has been found that donor or member data was taken.

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