EU member states are reportedly mulling a joint response to cyber-attacks allegedly carried out by China-linked hacking group Advanced Persistent Threat 10 (APT 10), Bloomberg has reported.
Insiders told Bloomberg that a team of British experts last month provided firm evidence of both hardware and software attacks during a meeting of EU officials.
The unnamed sources declined to provide details about the hardware attacks, stating that the information was confidential.
During the meeting, EU officials discussed potential responses, such as a joint warning or even sanctions. They also agreed to raise the matter at an upcoming EU-China summit, scheduled for April.
The current attention on APT 10 is part of a wider crackdown by the US and Europe on alleged spying and intellectual property theft by agencies linked to China.
In December, the US Department of Justice charged two alleged members of APT 10 with hacking more than 45 American organisations, US government agencies, and several companies across the world on behalf of China’s Ministry of State Security.
These hackers are thought to be part of a cyber-espionage group that operates under codenames such as APT 10, CVNX, Red Apollo, POTASSIUM, Stone Panda, and others.
Court documents revealed that two nationals and APT 10 hackers used spear-phishing to steal credentials from employees at different companies. Those credentials were then used to plant malware on a company’s network and steal gigabytes of intellectual property.
Hackers also attacked networks of cloud service providers to steal data from customer accounts or to pivot inside companies’ networks.
US officials claimed that the fruits of APT 10 attacks were fed to Chinese companies.
The Foreign Office in the UK concurs with US investigations, stating that APT 10 acted on behalf of Chinese agencies to target intellectual property and confidential data in Asia, Europe, and the US.
According to cyber-security firm FireEye, APT 10 has targeted several aerospace, telecoms, construction, and engineering firms in recent years to support Chinese national security goals of gathering intelligence and military information.
China, however, denies all these accusations.
“Some countries’ accusations against China on the cyber-security issue are unfounded and groundless, driven by ulterior motives,” the Chinese Mission to the EU said in a statement. “We urge the relevant parties to stop defaming China, so as not to undermine their bilateral relations and cooperation with China.”
For a joint response against China related to the cyber attacks, the EU member states would need to agree unanimously that China was responsible, but EU members have different opinions on the issue, according to Bloomberg.
Experts also believe that while the EU is currently developing protocols to respond to hacking and espionage activities, it would be challenging to attribute those actions to a particular nation.