07/29/2020, 13.42
VATICAN – CHINA
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PIME victim of Chinese hackers, along with the Vatican and the Study Mission in Hong Kong

by Bernardo Cervellera

A private US company, Recorded Future, detected the espionage operation against the mail servers of the Vatican Secretariat of State, the Diocese of Hong Kong, and the Holy See’s Study Mission in Hong Kong, which acts as a quasi-nunciature. PIME’s mail server did not work for weeks. The AsiaNews website has been attacked but not disabled. The hacking is the work of RedDelta, an entity linked to the Chinese government. Recorded Future appears to have no links to the Trump administration. Espionage and hackers are an international problem to live with.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Chinese hackers have hacked into the Vatican server and the Holy See's network, including its Study Mission in Hong Kong. Other victims include the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) in Milan.

AsiaNews’s website, which has its own special server, has not been affected, but its webmasters have noted some anonymous attacks in the past few weeks that failed.

The attacks were detected by Recorded Future, private cybersecurity company based in Somerville (Massachusetts). In a recently released report (click here), it explains that the attacks began last May.

Thanks to the use of letters from the Secretariat of State, hackers managed to plant malware that allowed them to hack the Hong Kong diocese’s computers, those of the Study Mission (which acts as a kind of nunciature for China) and the Vatican’s mail servers.

According to Recorded Future, the attack was the work of a group called RedDelta, an entity backed by the Chinese government.

The US company believes that the attacks are an attempt to steal secrets and spy on the Vatican ahead of a possible meeting between Holy See and Chinese delegations to discuss the renewal of the provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops, signed two years ago and which expires next September.

So far, the Vatican has not commented; however, the incident risks reinforcing the opinion that the Chinese side of the agreement is not reliable.

In the case of PIME’s mail server, the attack appears to have taken place in June. PIME’s general secretary, Fr Marco Villa, informed all its members of problems and issues that had affected the mail servers for weeks. In the past, mail was interrupted only for very short periods of time.

AsiaNews has its own server, independent of PIME’s, for security reasons. According to our webmasters from the Global Accelerationist Company (Glacom), "strange" blackouts and difficulties have affected its server in the past few weeks, preventing the smooth publication of news, but at least nothing serious has happened so far.

Like other websites that are critical of Communist China, AsiaNews is blocked in China, but its stories find their way into the country through social media and proxy servers.

In its report, Recorded Future looked at the hackers' modus operandi, citing China's attempt to control religions.

The detection of espionage comes at a time of great tensions between China and the United States, with the US accusing China of violating the religious freedom of Christians, Uyghurs, Tibetans, etc.

For the New York Times, the privately-run Recorded Future report has no connection with the Trump administration.

A Vatican official noted: “To say that China spies on the Vatican is like discovering hot water. By now espionage and hackers have become an international problem we have to live with.”

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