Thu, Jun 21, 2018 - Page 1 News List

China-based hack breached satellite, defense companies

Reuters, SAN FRANCISCO

A sophisticated hacking campaign launched from computers in China burrowed deeply into satellite operators, defense contractors and telecoms in the US and Southeast Asia, security researchers at Symantec Corp said on Tuesday.

The effort appeared to be driven by national espionage goals, such as the interception of military communications, Symantec said.

Such interception capabilities are rare, but not unheard of, and the researchers could not say what communications, if any, were taken.

More disturbingly in this case, the hackers infected computers that controlled the satellites, Symantec said.

“Disruption to satellites could leave civilian as well as military installations subject to huge [real world] disruptions,” Symantec technical director Vikram Thakur said. “We are extremely dependent on their functionality.”

Satellites are critical to telephone and some Internet links as well as mapping and positioning data.

Symantec, based in Mountain View, California, described its findings ahead of a planned public release and said the hackers had been removed from infected systems.

Symantec said it has shared technical information about the hack with the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security, along with public defense agencies in Asia and other security companies.

The FBI did not respond to a request for comment.

Symantec detected the misuse of common software tools at client sites in January, leading to the campaign’s discovery at unnamed targets, Thakur said.

He said that a group that Symantec calls Thrip, which might be called different names by other companies, was responsible for the effort.

The hackers launched their campaign from three computers in China, it said, but added that, in theory, the machines could have been compromised by someone elsewhere.

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