The cybersecurity firm has concluded that Chinese hackers have infiltrated the Vatican’s computer networks in recent months during talks between the Catholic Church and Beijing.
The attack, reported on Tuesday by a Massachusetts-based firm, Recorded Future, occurred as the Chinese government worked to tighten its control over religious groups in the country. It is also taking place ahead of talks in September on monitoring the appointment of bishops and the status of churches in China.
The infiltration targeted a training mission of the Vatican and the Holy See in China, a group of Hong Kong-based unofficial Vatican diplomats negotiating the status of the Church in China, and began in early May.
One attack during the campaign was hidden in a forged letter from the Vatican to the chaplain in Hong Kong in a particularly subtle attempt to copy a letter from the official stationery of Archbishop Edgar Peña Parr. The “recorded future”; determined that the attack was probably related to future negotiations on the 2018 agreement.
Details of the agreement reached two years ago are still unknown, but it is believed that this allowed Beijing to nominate candidates for bishops, but allowed the pope to make the final decision in the election.
Recorded Future concluded that the hacking campaign was led by RedDelta, a Chinese state-funded group, and that the tactics reflected the actions of others approved by Chinese malicious operations in recent years. However, the new methods and computer code used in the intrusions made it difficult to determine 100 percent of the source of the hack.
Relations between the Holy See and Beijing have been particularly strained during the September talks, including on China’s brutal security intervention in Hong Kong and the continuing restrictions on religious life in China.
“A suspected invasion of the Vatican would prompt RedDelta to understand the Holy See’s negotiating position before renewing the agreement in September 2020. Targeting the Hong Kong training mission and its Catholic diocese could also be a valuable source of intelligence for both monitoring the diocese’s relationship with the Vatican and its stance on progress against democracy in Hong Kong amid widespread protests and the recent unfolding of the national security law. “, – wrote” Recorded future “.
President Xi Jinping has rewarded the strengthening of government oversight across China over a number of religions, including the order to demolish crosses from more than a thousand churches from 2014 to 2016, and more recently, the establishment of most critical detention centers for ethnic Uighurs, most of which Muslims.
Relations between China and the Vatican have been strained in recent decades, severing diplomatic ties in 1951, after which the Holy See officially recognized Taiwan. In 2014, Beijing broke with tradition and allowed the Pope’s plane to fly through Chinese airspace on its way to South Korea, leading Pope FrancisPope Francis Marty Carty calls on Pelosi to condemn “crowd violence” after the removal of the statue of St. Junipero Serri. Pope Francis calls on Catholic media to “overcome diseases of racism, injustice and indifference” Countries use coronavirus to repress and persecute MORE to send a message to Si offering the blessing of peace. However, tensions have escalated as Chinese officials have gradually accused the church of helping pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.