Chinese hackers impersonate Catholic news outlets for gain

Vatican internet security

Chinese hackers are again suspected of exposing Vatican internet security.

Cyberscoop reports hackers posed as journalists in order to gain an advantage for China in negotiations with the Holy See.

Researchers at the security firm Recorded Future first identified hackers affiliated with a group called Mustang Panda in July.

The hacker group was conducting espionage against targets involved in negotiations around the operations of the Catholic Church in China.

Information on Catholicism in China has been of keen interest to the Chinese government since the Vatican cut off diplomatic relations with China in 1951.

After a brief halt to their activities, the hackers changed their approach, making detection more difficult.

The latest spate of targeting has included ‘spoofed’ email headers including specific lures about the provisional agreement between the Vatican Holy See and the Chinese Communist Party.

Hidden in the email is malware which allows a remote user to steal data. They can even take control of affected systems without permission or authorization.

The findings show how intent hackers are on collecting intelligence on entities involved in diplomacy between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist Party.

The resurgence of the hacker campaign came just days before the Vatican announced it had officially extended an agreement with Beijing about the appointment of Bishops in China.

Cybersecurity expert Andrew Jenkinson of Cybersec Innovation Partners in London has expressed concern over the Vatican internet security and vulnerability to cyber-attacks.

The Vatican has a sprawling system of websites, they are administered by the Internet Office of the Holy See.

The Vatican’s web presence has expanded steadily since it launched its main website,, in 1995.

Jenkinson noted that remained “not secure” months after the breach was reported earlier this year.



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