Microsoft's LinkedIn Pauses Sign-Ups In China

Microsoft’s networking site LinkedIn will pause new member sign-ups for its service in China while it works to ensure it is complying with local law.

“We’re a global platform with an obligation to respect the laws that apply to us, including adhering to Chinese government regulations for our localized version of LinkedIn in China,” the company posted a statement Tuesday.

LinkedIn entered China in 2014. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, China’s government allowed LinkedIn to operate in the country as one of the few U.S. social networking because early on it agreed to restrict some content to follow state censorship rules.

While the announcement comes days after Microsoft said state-sponsored hackers based in China are behind a massive attack on its Microsoft Exchange Server, it’s not entirely clear if the hack had anything to do with the decision.

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A LinkedIn spokesperson said the two are not related.

Microsoft on March 2 disclosed in a blog post that a China-sponsored group called Hafnium targeted Exchange Server software. The attacks have three steps.

“Hafnium primarily targets entities in the United States for the purpose of exfiltrating information from a number of industry sectors, including infectious disease researchers, law firms, higher education institutions, defense contractors, policy think tanks and NGOs,” wrote Tom Burt, corporate vice president of customer security and trust. “While Hafnium is based in China, it conducts its operations primarily from leased virtual private servers (VPS) in the United States.”

This is not the first time. Burt wrote that this is the eighth time in the past 12 months that Microsoft has publicly disclosed nation-state groups targeting institutions critical to civil society.

Brian Krebs, a security blogger, wrote in a post that at least 30,000 organizations have been affected by the attacks, including small businesses, towns, cities and local governments.

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