A network of Chinese hackers allegedly violated the Vatican's servers

A network of Chinese hackers allegedly violated the Vatican's servers

To say it is the cybersecurity company Recorded Future. The attacks would last three months and aimed to steal data on the appointment of bishops in China

(Photo: Vincenzo Pinto / Afp / Getty Images) An American cybersecurity company, Recorded Future, said it had discovered that a group of hackers linked to the Chinese government, in the last three months, has managed to infiltrate the Vatican servers to steal diplomatic secrets regarding the ongoing negotiations between Beijing and the Holy See on the renewal of the agreement for the appointment of bishops. Among the other objectives of Chinese computer scientists there would also have been confidential communications between the diocese of Hong Kong, the Holy See Study Mission, one of the most important evangelical missions in the world based in the city state that acts as a link for all 33 dioceses present in China, and the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME).

In Recorded's report, we read that the methods used to evade security systems were very sophisticated: everything started with a malware inserted inside an email of condolences for the death of a Chinese bishop signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the head of Vatican diplomacy, and sent to Monsignor Javier Corona Herrera, head of the Holy See Study. It remains to be ascertained whether the letter is a fake, meticulously counterfeited, or whether it is actually authentic. In the latter case, it will be necessary to understand how hackers came into their possession.

What happened

The attack, as reported by the New York Times , occurred at the beginning of may and went on for the next three months . A crucial period for the relations between the Holy see and Beijing because they were in the discussion of the terms of the agreement signed between the two parts in 2018 and should bring, to September, to the renewal of the appointments of bishops . The hacker attack aimed to find out the position that the Vatican had no intention to adopt in the stage of negotiations. In dance, there was also recognition of some of the bishops directly named by the chinese government that the Pope would have to accept.

This revelation will do nothing more that reinforce the existing relations thesis. According to the Times , Pope Francis, during the angelus of 5 July, he would have had to address a message to the citizens of Hong Kong, saying that “the situation requires courage, humility, non-violence and respect for the dignity and rights of all. I hope that social life and especially the religious can be expressed truly free, as in fact include numerous international documents” . The words at the end were not pronounced, but which, however, are well-known in vatican circles, and diplomatic.

The Recorded Future has also identified the hacker group that would lead the attack: it would, of RedDelta that, on other occasions, he would have carried out similar activities on behalf of the Beijing government, but never with such a level of precision and detail. The intrusion on the servers of the Holy see would have allowed China to monitor the relations of the dioceses within the Holy See Study Mission, and in what relationships they had with the protest movements of pro-democracy , particularly after the entry into force of the law yet . The Vatican has not yet commented on the incident, but the chinese foreign ministry has defended himself by saying that the country is “a firm defender of cybersecurity” and that allegations of this kind require “ample evidence and not mere conjecture” .

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