China hacking accusations: US 'ganging up with its allies', is 'the world's largest source of cyber attacks', Chinese foreign ministry claims

China is flipping accusations of state-sponsored cyberattacks, saying it's actually the US and its allies that need to stop hacking them.

New Zealand, the US, UK, Australia and other international partners on Monday said evidence had been uncovered that the Chinese Ministry of State Security exploited Microsoft Exchange earlier this year. 

"New Zealand is today joining other countries in strongly condemning this malicious activity undertaken by the Chinese Ministry of State Security," NZ GCSB Minister Andrew Little said in a statement on Monday night.

"We call for an end to this type of malicious activity, which undermines global stability and security, and we urge China to take appropriate action in relation to such activity emanating from its territory."

China foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has now responded to the claims, urging the US and allies to back off.

"The US ganged up with its allies to make groundless accusations out of thin air against China on the cybersecurity issue," Zhao told a news briefing. "This act confuses right with wrong… China will never accept this. 

"In fact, the US is the world's largest source of cyber-attacks," he added, citing a report from a Chinese cybersecurity firm.

Zhao goes on to say cyberattacks are a "common threat faced by all".

"I would like to stress that a handful of countries do not represent the international community, and denigrating others doesn’t help to whitewash one’s own wrongdoings. China once again strongly demands that the US and its allies stop cyber theft and attacks targeting China, stop slinging mud at China on this issue, and revoke the so-called indictment."

China regularly releases statements accusing other countries of interfering in its domestic affairs - including allegations of human rights abuses from the West.

The Chinese Embassy in Wellington on Tuesday said the hacking accusations were "groundless and irresponsible". 

"We urge the New Zealand side to abandon the Cold War mentality, adopt a professional and responsible attitude when dealing with cyber incidents, and work with others to jointly tackle the challenge through dialogue and cooperation rather than manipulating political issues under the pretext of cybersecurity and mudslinging at others," a spokesperson said.

The US, meanwhile, said the scope and scale of hacking attributed to China has surprised them, along with its use of "criminal contract hackers". United States security and intelligence agencies outlined more than 50 techniques and procedures that "China state-sponsored actors" use against US networks, a senior administration official told Reuters.

US concerns about Chinese cyber activities have been raised with senior Chinese officials and "we're not ruling out further action to hold the PRC accountable", the official said.