When it comes to espionage in cyberspace, the Vatican may not seem like an obvious target. However, it has now been targeted by hackers who appear to be linked to China. China and the Vatican are expected to begin negotiations in September to renew a agreement for the control of the Catholic Church in China. Chinese leaders may be looking for an advantage - insight into how the Holy See planned to approach the negotiating table, according to a report released by the Recorded Future, a company that researches the threats at cyberspace. The report states that the hackers were targeted the Vatican, the Diocese of Hong Kong and its head, the de facto representative of the Pope in China. In addition, according to the report, China used malware to acquire access inside networks of the Vatican.
Specifically, the analysts of Recorded Future reported that they discovered a suspect campaign funded by China and targets many high-profile entities affiliated with the Catholic Church before the possible renewal of the historic agreement China-Vatican, in September 2020. The target of the attacks were, inter alia, communications between the Diocese of Hong Kong and the Vatican, while the tools and the methods used were similar to those of certified cyberattacks by Chinese government-backed groups.
A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said China is an "ardent defender" of cyber security, emphasizing that sufficient, substantiated and clear evidence is required and not conjecture and scenarios. Beijing denies any involvement in the cyber-attacks, saying it is a victim of such threats. The cyber-attack follows a rare meeting between Beijing and the Vatican Foreign Minister in Germany earlier this year. It was the highest level official meeting between the two countries in decades.
Relations between the two countries appear to be steadily improving, with the renewal of a two-year interim agreement on the functioning of the Catholic Church in China expected to be signed in September. In addition, Chinese delegates would go to the Vatican for talks, but due to the pandemic of COVID-19It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post, according to a Vatican source. The source, who spoke to Reuters before reporting on the attacks, said it was not yet clear whether the deal would be automatically renewed due to the pandemic, and for how long.