Researchers at security vendor FireEye say they’ve uncovered a disturbing scheme: what looks like random hack attacks against a variety of U.S. companies is really an organised group of Chinese hackers stealing intellectual property.
The researchers told Business Insider that they don’t know what the hackers are doing with stolen IP, or how much money this has cost U.S. companies so far. But, they say, the group has been busy in 2013.
Most of the attacks have been on tech, financial services and telecom companies. They seemed random and unrelated but were all done by Chinese hackers using the same tools and the methods.
Ned Moran, senior malware researcher at FireEye, answered a few questions about it for Business Insider.
Business Insider: Sounds like you are saying that FireEye found some sort of Chinese Hacker Mafia attacking big U.S. companies. How big is the threat?
Ned Moran: The threat is very real. We are certain that groups of attackers in China are targeting U.S. companies. It is unclear, however, how these groups are organised:
- A singular entity that develops and distributes malware tools to different groups of attackers?
- Relationships that exist between different groups of attacker?
- A singular entity that both develops tools and exacts all the attacks?
BI: In your paper, you call this hacker group a “digital arms dealer.” Once they break in what do they do?
NM: We believe these groups of attackers intend to steal intellectual property. What they do with this intellectual property once they acquire it remains unclear.
BI: In your estimation, how much damage in dollars has this Chinese hacker group caused so far?
NM: We unfortunately don’t have visibility into the damage — only the methods. That being said, Chinese hackers have been increasing their efforts on cyber crime dramatically over the past year.
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