Researchers say Chinese hackers have spread a wide network to obtain trade secrets in the US, Europe and Asia

Hackers have targeted blueprints for the production of materials with wide applications in the pharmaceutical and aerospace sectors, according Boston security firm Cybereason. The firm discovered the activity last year but said the hacking campaign began at least in 2019 and suggested large amounts of data could have been stolen during that time.
The study is a disturbing reminder of the extent of the cyberthreats American businesses and government agencies face as the Biden administration tries to thwart them. Despite all the attention to a potential hack by Russia due to the war in Ukraine, China’s digital operatives have been very active.

“This is clearly industrial espionage, IP [intellectual property] theft at the highest level,” Cybereason research team leader Assaf Dahan told CNN.

Asked to respond to the Cybereason report, Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, said that China “will never encourage, support or condone cyberattacks.”

“China opposes baseless speculation and allegations of hacker attacks,” Liu added. “If the firm really cares [sic] as far as global cybersecurity is concerned, they should pay more attention to US government-sponsored cyberattacks against China and other countries.”

For years, cybersecurity researchers and US officials have accused Chinese spy and military agencies of hacking and stealing trade secrets.

China “has a massive and sophisticated cyber-theft program,” FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate told the American Hospital Association last week, “and commits more cyber-intrusions than all the rest of the world combined.”

The FBI declined to comment on the Cybereason report.

US officials and cyber intelligence analysts point to China’s “Made in 2025” plan – the state’s ambitious plan to achieve economic dominance – as a yardstick for the types of companies targeted by Chinese hackers.

The plan, released in 2015, provides for, among other things, the development of production in the aerospace and biomedical fields. The Justice Department has since released indictments accusing Chinese hackers of attacking those very sectors.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and then US President Barack Obama in 2015. agreed that no government will “perform or knowingly support the theft of intellectual property through cybersecurity.”

Some analysts noticed a temporary decline in China’s hacking activity shortly after the deal was struck. But Adam Meyers, senior vice president of intelligence at cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, suspects that any lull in Chinese economic espionage at the time could be due to Xi’s restructuring in the People’s Liberation Army.

“During that period, in 2016, we began to see a significant shift in Chinese invasion operations in favor of groups that are now affiliated with the Ministry of State Security,” Meyers told CNN, referring to China’s civilian intelligence agency.

China’s global cyber-espionage campaigns are increasingly targeting large repositories of valuable data, such as telecom and internet service providers, rather than individual organizations, Meyers said.

“I think they really stepped up their game in terms of the wider infrastructure, so it’s harder to pinpoint that they were doing economic espionage,” Meyers said.

Firm executives said they first noticed the hack that Cybereason was investigating when attackers infiltrated the Asian branch of a major manufacturing and technology firm.

But according to Cybereason, it will take months to successfully knock the hackers off the network, showing just how determined they were to complete their mission.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.