The Vatican and the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong have been targeted by Chinese hackers believed to be in the service of their government.
There was no immediate comment in the Vatican and it was only now, after a report by The New York Times, that everything was known.
When it comes to cyber espionage, the Vatican may not seem like an obvious target. However, it has now been targeted by hackers who appear to be linked to China.
China and the Vatican are expected to begin negotiations in September to renew an agreement on control of the Catholic Church in China.
Chinese leaders may seem like advanced knowledge about how the Holy See planned to approach the negotiating table, according to a report published by Recorded Future, a company that investigates threats in cyberspace.
The report claims that the hackers were targeted by the Vatican, the Hong Kong diocese, and their boss, the Pope’s de facto representative in China.
In addition, according to the report, China used malware to access internal Vatican networks.
China’s Foreign Ministry generally denies any involvement in the incident, calling the report “baseless speculation.”
The attacks continued from May until at least July 21. They included, in particular, an explicit phishing attempt with documents from the Vatican Secretariat of State, so to speak, sent to the head of the Vatican mission in Hong Kong.
Phishing is a type of Internet fraud that aims to gain access to confidential user data.
This is achieved by sending mass emails on behalf of popular brands, as well as private messages within various services, for example on behalf of banks or within social networks.
The letter often contains a direct link to a site that appears indistinguishable from the real one, or to a site with a redirect.
After the user lands on a fake page, the scammers try, using various psychological methods, to induce the user to enter their username and password on the fake page, which they use to access a specific site, thus allowing the Scammers gain access to bank accounts and accounts.
According to a report published by the US service Recorded Future, which tracks cyberattacks, the hacking attempt was carried out by a group called RedDelta.
And it appears that it began in May with the possible goal of September negotiations to renew the interim agreement on bishop appointments.
China is home to some 12 million Catholics, who are divided into two groups: one part belongs to the government-backed Chinese Catholic “patriotic church association”, which is outside the power of the Pope, the second part, one part very small – it is something like a “catacomb church” dedicated to the Pope.
The Chinese authorities are persecuting the parishioners and especially the priests of this church.