Microsoft hits Chinese cyber-spying group

Microsoft hits Chinese cyber-spying group. More than 40 websites used by hackers have been seized.

Microsoft announced that they have hit out at a Chinese cyber-spying group.  The hackers are said to be backed by the Chinese state. The sites had been collecting information on human rights organisations, foreign ministers and other bodies. The hackers had reportedly been gathering intelligence in 29 different countries.

Microsoft was granted permission to seize the domains by a federal court in Virginia. The group is known by several names such as Nickel, APT15 and Vixen Panda.

Once permission was granted Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit swooped in and took control. According to Microsoft, the Internet traffic was redirected to: “help us protect existing and future victims while learning more about Nickel’s activities.”

The corporate vice president of Microsoft Tom Burt took to social media to comment. He explained: “Obtaining control of the malicious websites and redirecting traffic from those sites to Microsoft’s secure servers will help us protect existing and future victims while learning more about Nickel’s activities.

“Our disruption will not prevent Nickel from continuing other hacking activities, but we do believe we have removed a key piece of the infrastructure the group has been relying on for this latest wave of attacks.”

He went on to add: “The attacks MSTIC observed are highly sophisticated and used a variety of techniques but nearly always had one goal: to insert hard-to-detect malware that facilitates intrusion, surveillance and data theft,”

Burt gave additional details on the cyber-spying group’s targets and said: “Nickel has targeted in North America, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa,

“There is often a correlation between Nickel’s targets and China’s geopolitical interests. Others in the security community who have researched this group of actors refer to the group by other names, including ‘KE3CHANG,’ ‘APT15,’ ‘Vixen Panda,’ ‘Royal APT’ and ‘Playful Dragon,

“In addition to the U.S., the countries in which Nickel has been active include: Argentina, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Jamaica, Mali, Mexico, Montenegro, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom and Venezuela.”

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Written by

Alex Glenn

Originally from the UK, Alex is based in Almeria and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at