Chinese hackers spied on ASEAN governments and companies "for a decade"
Bangkok (AsiaNews / Agencies) - For more than a decade professional Chinese hackers have spied on and hacked governments and large companies from ASEAN nations (Association that brings together 10 nations of Southeast Asia), becoming one of the longest and most efficient groups operating in the field.
The charges have been laid by a US based company specializing in network security FireEye Inc.; members of APT30 (the name of the battle group) stepped up their online activity on the eve of summit and high-level diplomatic meetings. 15 companies active in the telecommunications, technology, finance and aviation industry, and some leading sectors of the Indian Army are also involved.
FireEye experts claim to have traced a unit of professional hackers, to the upper echelons of the Chinese military. Although there is no evidence of a direct link with the government of Beijing, there are some indicators that strongly point to a link between the software code and the language used. These elements suggest that the system was developed in China.
Bryce Boland, head of FireEye’s Asia-Pacific technology division, says that "all elements lead to the Chinese government," although "we just don’t have the smoking gun" that proves Beijing’s involvement.
Since 2005 APT30 distributed malware that then allowed access to the computers of governments and companies in the Southeast Asia and India. To gain access to computers and security systems Chinese hackers used seemingly harmless or legitimate email addresses, as well as messages fluently written in the local language (Thai, etc).
Journalists and large news networks are also among the victims of espionage. Experts have also seen an escalation in attacks to coincide with major regional ASEAN summit in recent years, including Jakarta, Phnom Penh and New Delhi.
Faced with accusations, the Chinese ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defense and internet Department have repeatedly denied Chinese government involvement in these attacks; Hua Chunying, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said on the contrary that China "is one of the major victims" of online espionage.
Moreover, already in 2013 China had been classified as "the most dangerous hacker in the world, the biggest threat to the freedom of the Internet", while its government "supports cybercrimes in exchange for economic and political benefits." This complaint was not moved by a simple activist, but the number one at Goolge Eric Schmidt who stated that Beijing is "the internet’s most active and enthusiastic filter, the most sophisticated and prolific hacker of foreign companies." According to experts, China is also the instigator of major cyber-attacks that occurred between 2006 and 2011.