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UK government set to link China government-affiliated hackers to a cyberattack on election watchdog

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LONDON (AP) — Britain’s government is expected to blame a string of cyberattacks targeting the U.K.’s election watchdog and lawmakers on hackers linked to the Chinese government,

Officials are expected to announce Monday measures against cyber organizations and individuals affiliated with the Chinese government for an attack that may have gained access to information on tens of millions of U.K. voters held by the Electoral Commission, as well as cyberattacks targeting lawmakers who have been outspoken about the China threat.

The Electoral Commission said in August that it identified a cyberattack on its system in October 2022, though it added that “hostile actors” had first been able to access its servers since 2021.

At the time, the watchdog said the data included the names and addresses of registered voters. But it added that much of the information was already in the public domain, and that possessing such information was unlikely to influence election results.

Separately, three lawmakers, including former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith and a member of the House of Lords, were reportedly called to a briefing by Parliament’s security director Monday over the cyberattacks.

The four politicians are members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, an international pressure group focused on countering Beijing’s growing influence and calling out alleged rights abuses by the Chinese government.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden is expected to give details in Parliament later Monday.

Ahead of that announcement, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reiterated that China is “behaving in an increasingly assertive way abroad” and is “the greatest state-based threat to our economic security.”

“It’s right that we take measures to protect ourselves, which is what we are doing,” he said, without providing details.

Responding to the reports, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said countries should base their claims on evidence rather than “smear” others without factual basis.

“Cybersecurity issues should not be politicized,” ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said. “We hope all parties will stop spreading false information, take a responsible attitude, and work together to maintain peace and security in cyberspace.”

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