| The Explainer |

Hackers Vs. USA

Latest Chinese cyberattack shows America still has much to learn

In a revelation that exposed fissures in its cyber defense systems, Microsoft admitted this week that Chinese cyberattacks had hacked into thousands of sensitive US government accounts. While Beijing rejected the accusations, the official acknowledgment highlights America’s technological vulnerability and the pressing need to fortify cyber defenses. The episode is another reminder that 21st-century wars value computers over tanks.

The Latest Attack

China-based hackers penetrated Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud, accessing email accounts and stealing unclassified info.

  • Storm-0558: Microsoft’s name for the Chinese hacker group responsible for the attack.
  • 1 month: The amount of time Storm-0558 operated unnoticed, from May 15 until June 16.
  • 25: The estimated number of organizations affected by the cyberattack, including the US departments of State and Commerce.
  • “Disinformation”: Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin’s response to the accusations. “No matter which agency issued this information, it will never change the fact that the United States is the world’s largest hacker empire conducting the most cyber theft,” he added.
Behind the Mask

China is the biggest perpetrator and the US is the biggest target.

America’s Top Cyber Foes
  1. China
  2. Russia
  3. Iran
  4. North Korea

Percentage of worldwide cyberattacks directed at US targets.

Differing Objectives

Hackers from Russia, Iran, and North Korea try to damage systems; Chinese hackers mostly focus on spying and data theft.

“China has a massive, sophisticated cyber theft program and it conducts more cyber intrusions than all other nations in the world combined.”

—FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate

Worst Cyberattacks on the US

Malicious code inserted into a software update for SolarWinds’ popular Orion network management system, used by 33,000 business and government clients.

When: 2019–2020

Who: Russian state hackers

What: Millions of emails were hacked, including accounts at the US departments of Homeland Security, State, Commerce, and Treasury.


Several major data breaches affecting user accounts at one of the world’s largest Internet service companies.

When: 2013–2016

Who: Russian state hackers

What: All of Yahoo’s 3 billion accounts were hacked, setting a record for the worst data breach in history.


Sweeping attack on Microsoft Exchange Servers giving hackers full access to user emails and passwords

When: 2021

Who: Chinese hackers

What: An estimated 250,000 email servers were hacked, affecting 30,000 organizations in the US and more than 60,000 worldwide.

Cyber Security

America is marshaling resources for cyber defense — but is it enough?

  • $15.6 Billion: Amount allocated in the 2023 federal budget for cybersecurity.
  • 147: Number of teams comprising the “Cyber Mission Force,” under the purview of the National Security Agency, tasked with safeguarding American cyberspace.
  • Zero Trust Architecture: Government policy for data protection across all agencies. No users or devices are trusted by default, even if previously verified. The motto is “Never trust, always verify.”

“Cyber protection is just as important as missile defense systems.”

—Ex-NATO General Ben Hodges

Recruiting Challenges

A major challenges in cybersecurity is that attackers are better prepared than the defenders.

28%: Discrepancy in salary between private sector and government cybersecurity.

Lack of expertise: Key sectors such as energy utilities reported a 25% gap in critical skills when trying to hire professionals.


Sources: TechCrunch; CNN; USA Today; Parachute; CSIS; CISA; CSO; White House Archives; US Department of Defense; Microsoft; World Economic Forum


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 970)

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