GCSB finds links between China and campaign of cyber theft

A New Zealand intelligence and defence policy analyst warns the Government needs to "stop obfuscating" about the threat China poses to New Zealand.

Director of strategic assessment firm 36th Parallel Assessments Dr Paul Buchanan says the announcement that Chinese state-backed hackers have been targeting us confirms what has been "long known".

"Elements of the Chinese state, in concert with state-sponsored firms, have engaged in a global hacking campaign," he told Newshub on Friday.

"Chinese firms do not play by the rules of the game even though they've signed up to a rules-based system."

Earlier on Friday, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) said it had found a link between a long running cyber campaign and the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS).

The campaign has targeted the intellectual property and commercial data of numerous managed service providers, including some that operate in New Zealand, GCSB director-general Andrew Hampton said.

Managed service providers offer a range of technology services such as internet access and email services.

"This activity is counter to the commitment all APEC economies, including China, made in November 2016," Mr Hampton said in a statement.

"APEC economies agreed they should not conduct or support ICT-enabled theft of intellectual property or other confidential business information, for commercial advantage."

Dr Buchanan says it is a "wake up call" and we need to take action.

"The bottom line is New Zealand continues to be seen as the weak link, or the Achilles heel of the Western-centric signals intelligence networks," he says.

"The Government certainly has to stop obfuscating about the threat posed to New Zealand by certain elements of the Chinese state.

"The Government continues to downplay the darker side of China's engagement with New Zealand in the interests of trade."

The GCSB said the campaign has been running since 2016, it became aware of it in early 2017, and issued advice to help NZ organisations protect their networks on the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) website.

Mr Hampton says that such cyber campaigns are unacceptable.

"New Zealand's prosperity depends on a rule-based international order, including states acting in a responsible way online," he told Newshub.

"This campaign is inconsistent with those principles. That's why New Zealand is joining with other like-minded states to call this activity out."