More than 70 major government, media and other organizations were hacked on an industrial scale in a breathtaking cyber-spying scheme likely perpetrated by a “nation-state,” Internet security firm McAfee revealed Wednesday.
While McAfee’s 14-page report does not specifically mention China, experts told the Washington Post the Asian nation is the likely culprit.
While the report doesn’t list many specific outlets that it says were hacked, the named victims include the United Nations, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the International Olympic Committee, U.S.-based defense and security contractors and state and local governments in the United States.
“What we have witnessed over the past five to six years has been nothing short of a historically unprecedented transfer of wealth,” wrote Dmitri Alperovitch, McAfee’s vice president of threat research and the lead author of the report.
“What is happening to all this data—by now reaching petabytes as a whole—is still largely an open question. However, if even a fraction of it is used to build better competing products or beat a competitor at a key negotiation (due to having stolen the other team’s playbook), the loss represents a massive economic threat not just to individual companies and industries but to entire countries that face the prospect of decreased economic growth in a suddenly more competitive landscape and the loss of jobs in industries that lose out to unscrupulous competitors in another part of the world, not to mention the national security impact of the loss of sensitive intelligence or defense information.”
Because the list of targets included Taiwan and Olympic organizations before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, James Lewis, a Center for Strategic and International Studies cyber-security expert told the paper, China is “the most likely candidate.”
“This isn’t the first we’ve seen,” he said. “This has been going on from China since at least 1998.”
And Alperovitch told the New York Times: “We’re not pointing fingers at anyone but we believe it was a nation-state.”
The targets include 49 entities in the United States — six in the federal government, eight at other levels of government and the United Nations and two news media outlets.
“Even news media was not immune to the targeting,” the report said, “with one major U.S. news organization compromised at its New York Headquarters and Hong Kong Bureau for more than 21 months.” The report did not identify the news media outlet, but the Post identified it as The Associated Press.
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