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Chinese espionage operations in Finland and Estonia highlight security challenges

Finish and Estonian intelligence services released details on domestic Chinese espionage operations thwarted in the last few months.

What you need to know
  • On March 18, the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service identified the APT31 operation, with links to China, as perpetrators behind the hack into the Finnish Parliament’s network last fall. The cybersecurity companies define the APT31 as a nexus of cyberespionage actors who extract information useful to Chinese government and SOEs. The network breach compromised the security of multiple email accounts including those belonging to Finish MPs.
  • Last week, Estonia convicted Tarmo Kõuts, an Estonian scientist working on NATO maritime and submarine research, to three years in prison for espionage in the interest of China. Kõuts, who had clearances to access national and NATO-level intelligence, was recruited in 2018 by the Intelligence Bureau of the Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission, China’s military intelligence agency, and operated until his arrest in September last year. He reportedly received financial renumeration for passing anecdotes about his work.

MERICS Quick take

Cybersecurity challenges, technological espionage and disinformation operations are core security challenges posed by China in Europe. NATO 2030 analysis from November last year, suggests that those may be the key areas of China-related cooperation within the organization.

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