3 Aug 2011

Massive cyber attack ‘hit 72 organisations’

IT security company McAfee says it has uncovered one of the largest series of cyber attacks, targeting 72 different organisations over five years.

Massive cyber attack uncovered

McAfee said the highly sophisticated cyber attack appeared to have been conducted by a government body. But the company, which was recently acquired by Intel, declined to say which country it believed was behind the attack.

“We’re not pointing fingers at anyone but we believe it was a nation-state,” Dmitri Alperovitch, McAfee’s vice-president of threat research and the lead author of the report, said.

Of the targets of the attacks, organisations in the United States represented 49 of the 72, while governments, companies, and organisations in Canada, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Switzerland and Britain were also targets on several occasions.

McAfee called the five-year investigation Operation Shady RAT – RAT standing for the remote access tool that security experts and hackers use to remotely access computer networks.

It examined information from a number of different organisations who thought they might have been hit.

“In some cases, we were permitted to delve a bit deeper and see what, if anything, had been taken, and in many cases we found evidence that intellectual property (IP) had been stolen,” McAfee’s chief European technology officer, Raj Samani, said.

The United Nations, the Indian government, the International Olympic Committee, the steel industry, defence firms, even computer security companies, were hit,” Mr Samani continued.

McAfee’s report comes after Google accused Chinese hackers last year of stealing some of the company’s source code.

Read more: China admits cyber warfare unit 

Many security experts say the Chinese government has built up a sophisticated cyber warfare unit and that it could be working in partnership with professional hackers.

Beijing has strongly denied any role in cyber attacks, and insisted it has been a frequent victim itself.

Last month, at a regularly scheduled news conference in Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: “The Chinese government opposes hacking in all its manifestations.”

He added: “Hacking is an international issue, with which China also falls victim. China is willing to conduct international cooperation in this regard. We are dissatisfied with some people’s irresponsible remarks that link hacker attacks with the Chinese government.”