February 27, 2021

Security Firm Says It Found Global Cyberspying

The company, McAfee, said it had alerted the 72 targets it identified and also informed law enforcement agencies, which it said were investigating. The 14-page report calls the attacks highly sophisticated and says they appear to have been operated by a government body, which it declined to name.

“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 in a telephone interview on Wednesday. China has repeatedly been the focus of suspicion in such cases.

The report comes after high-profile cyberattacks aimed at the International Monetary Fund, Sony and the Lockheed Martin Corporation, America’s largest military contractor.

McAfee, which was recently acquired by Intel, said it released the report to coincide with the start of the annual Black Hat technical security conference in Las Vegas. Briefings at the conference are scheduled to be delivered Wednesday and Thursday. Details of the study were first published on the Web site of Vanity Fair.

Although in recent months there have been an alarming number of reports about computer spying, many offer few details, citing concern for the targets’ privacy. The 14-page McAfee report, for instance, offers little detail about the cases, what kinds of documents were stolen or what kind of evidence was found to determine the perpetrator was a government body.

Among the few targets the report mentions by name is the International Olympic Committee. However, Mark Adams, a spokesman for the committee, said early Wednesday: “We are unaware of the alleged attempt to compromise our information security claimed by McAfee. If true, such allegations would of course be disturbing.”

Spokesmen for the United Nations and another named target, the World Anti-Doping Agency, could not immediately be reached for comment. The report said that 49 targets were in the United States and that governments, companies, and organizations in Canada, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Switzerland and Britain were also targets multiple times.

“After painstaking analysis of the logs, even we were surprised by the enormous diversity of the victim organizations and were taken aback by the audacity of the perpetrators,” Mr. Alperovitch wrote.

McAfee said it learned of the hacking campaign last March, when it discovered logs of attacks while reviewing the contents of a server it had discovered in 2009 as part of an investigation into security breaches at defense companies.

It dubbed the attacks Operation Shady RAT — RAT stands for remote access tool, a type of software used to access computer networks.

The company dated the earliest breaches to mid-2006, though it said other intrusions might have gone undetected. The duration of the attacks ranged from a month to what McAfee said was a sustained 28-month attack against an Olympic committee of an unidentified Asian nation.

What was done with the data “is still largely an open question,” Mr. Alperovitch wrote in the report. “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.”

Asked why McAfee decided not to identify most of the corporations that were targets in Operation Shady Rat, the company said on Wednesday that most corporations were worried about being identified and alarming shareholders or customers.

Cyber security is now a major international concern, with hackers gaining access sensitive corporate and military secrets, including intellectual property.

In some attacks, the culprits are believed to be professional hackers engaged in disrupting an organization’s operations for the sheer pleasure of it, or seeking revenge.

In mid-May, the Obama administration proposed creating international computer security standards with penalties for countries and organizations that fell short. The strategy calls for officials from the State Department, the Pentagon, the Justice Department, the Commerce Department and the Department of Homeland Security to work with their counterparts around the world to come up with standards aimed at preventing theft of private information and ensuring Internet freedom.

David Barboza reported from Shanghai, and Kevin Drew from Hong Kong.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=1f0c90cc1c09fbe3cdc35ae3f8803592

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