Canada on Tuesday accused Chinese government-backed hackers of attempting to access its main computer network, but Beijing denied the accusations saying it had no role to play in the alleged act.
The Canadian government reportedly claimed that a state-sponsored actor had hacked into the systems of the National Research Council, which works with companies, including airplanes and trains manufacturer Bombardier Inc. (TSE:BBD.B), and lodged a complaint in Beijing. The claims come at a time when Canada is looking to increase oil sales to China, despite having an uneven relationship with the Asian giant.
"The government takes this issue very seriously, and we are addressing it at the highest levels in both Beijing and Ottawa," Adam Hodge, a spokesperson for Canada’s foreign ministry, said, according to Reuters.
The Canadian government, as a precautionary measure, has kept its research council computer separate from other networks even though they are not used by the government system, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. In April, the Canadian federal tax agency had said that Chinese hackers had got hold of taxpayers' information by accessing its systems.
"It is neither professional nor responsible to make groundless speculations and accusations on cyber attacks for various purposes," Yang Yundong, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Ottawa said, according to Reuters.
Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird met his Chinese counterpart on Tuesday in Beijing to have “a full and frank exchange of views,” during his seven-day visit to Mongolia, Japan and China, CBC Radio, a Canadian news network reported, citing an official statement.
"The Chinese government has always firmly opposed … and combated cyberattacks in accordance with the law," Yang said, according to CBC, adding that, last year, Beijing had seen a surge in cyber-attacks conducted on its system.
"It is the common challenge faced by the international community to deal with cyberattacks and safeguard cyber security," Yang said, according to CBC, adding: "Nowadays, China-Canada relations have maintained a good momentum. We are ready to work together with the Canadian side to create a peaceful, secure, open and co-operative cyberspace."
Canada's accusations follow a series of complaints from the U.S. against the Chinese government in recent months, including a move in May to indict five members of the Chinese military for hacking into the systems of American companies. Since then, the U.S. and China have traded accusations of hacking into each other's networks.
Earlier this year, China asked its financial institutions to stop using computer systems made by IBM (NYSE:IBM). In 2012, a U.S. congressional committee had warned about using technology manufactured by Beijing-based companies including Huawei Technology Co Ltd. (SHE:002502) and ZTE Corporation (SHE:000063).