The National Security Agency (NSA) allegedly gained access to China’s telecommunications network when it hacked the email systems of a prominent public research university there, Chinese state media reported.
According to a source the Global Times cited, the U.S. agency infiltrated the network to “control the country’s infrastructure.”
In June, China’s Northwestern Polytechnical University, known for its aviation, aerospace and navigation programs, announced that foreign hackers sent phishing emails to teachers and students in an attempt to steal personal information.
The phishing emails had subject lines related to scientific evaluation, thesis defense and information on foreign travel.
An investigation conducted by a Chinese technical team found that the cyberattack on the university was conducted by Tailored Access Operations (TAO), a hacking unit of the NSA.
According to the technical team, TAO stole core technology data, including key network equipment configuration, network management data and core operational data. It also found more than 1,100 attack links that infiltrated the university.
The source told the Global Times that more details regarding the cyberattack will be released soon.
The U.S. and China have been fiercely competing in the digital world, with each government trying to lead in the scientific and tech market. The U.S. has also often accused the Chinese government of economic espionage, including stealing intellectual property like trade secrets.
The NSA declined to comment on the matter.