A U.S. based cyber-security firm, Recorded Future, has revealed that China-linked cybercriminals have infiltrated Vatican computer networks, including the one belonging to the Roman Catholic Church's Hong Kong-based representative.

As per the security experts, the threat actors, called RedDelta, launched the attack in May, prior to the talks between Beijing and the Vatican over the renewal of a landmark 2018 deal which stabilized relations between China and the Church. The findings revealed that the hackers targeted the Vatican and the Catholic diocese of Hong Kong that includes the Hong Kong Study Mission, who is seen as Pope Francis' de facto representative to China.

The report stated, "The predecessor to this role played a key part in the finalization of the 2018 provisional China-Vatican agreement, making his successor a valuable target for intelligence gathering ahead of the deal's expiry and likely renewal in September 2020."

Victim or Guilty?

Pope Francis
Vatican under cybersecurity threat Wikimedia Commons

Beijing authority has denied engagement with any 'state-backed hacking' attempts and said that it is a victim of such cyber threats. However, as of now neither the Vatican nor the Hong Kong Study Mission made any comments on the hacking incident. But considering the history of China-linked cyberattack incidents, the possibility of such incidents can not be overlooked.

However, the reported hacking follows a rare meeting between China and the Vatican's foreign minister in Germany earlier this year. As the relationship between the two has been improving, they are expected to renew the provisional two-year deal on the operation of China's Catholic Church in September this year.

new cybersecurity law in china
Chinese hackers Reuters

Recently, it was also reported that Chinese threat actors are believed to have launched a series of digital attacks on UK's senior Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat. As per the British politician—who is the chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee-- he had been subjected to concerted efforts to access his email account and discredit him personally and professionally.

Previously reports claimed that China-based hackers have been attempting to hack universities and research institution's networks to steal potentially lifesaving Coronavirus related intellectual property. Recently, several western pharmaceutical companies have also seen a barrage of hacking attempts.