China-linked hackers penetrated Vatican computer network, right before diplomatic negotiations with Beijing

“In one attack, the hackers weaponized an electronic file with a letter that had a note of condolence from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state.”

The Vatican is reported to have been hacked by attackers working for China, just before diplomatic negotiations were set to begin between the Vatican and Beijing.

“The Vatican and Beijing are expected to start talks in September over control of the appointment of bishops and the status of houses of worship as part of a renewal of a provisional agreement signed in 2018 that revised the terms of the Catholic Church’s operations in China,” report Jason Horowitz, David Sanger, and Ed Wong at the New York Times:

The attack was detected by Recorded Future, a firm based in Somerville, Mass. The Chinese Communist Party has been waging a broad campaign to tighten its grip on religious groups, in what government leaders have periodically referred to as an effort to “Sinicize religions” in the country.

China officially recognizes five religions, including Catholicism, but the authorities often suspect religious groups and worshipers of undermining the control of the Communist Party and the state, and of threatening the country’s national security.

Chinese hackers and state authorities have often used cyberattacks to try to gather information on groups of Buddhist Tibetans, Muslim Uighurs and Falun Gong practitioners outside China.

But this appears to be the first time that hackers, presumed by cybersecurity experts at Recorded Future to be working for the Chinese state, have been publicly caught directly hacking into the Vatican and the Holy See’s Study Mission to China, the Hong Kong-based group of de facto Vatican representatives who have played a role in negotiating the Catholic Church’s status.

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The Vatican Is Said to Be Hacked From China Before Talks With Beijing