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China suspected of attacking neighbours in decade of cyber-espionage

Hacking group seen seeking political and military intelligence.

By Jimmy Nicholls

China has probably been attacking its neighbours in Southeast Asia in a decade-long cyber-espionage campaign, according to the security vendor FireEye.

A hacking group dubbed APT30 by FireEye was found to be hitting government and commercial targets in both Southeast Asia and India, with the effort behind the campaign leading researchers to believe it was state-sponsored, mostly likely by China.

Dan McWhorter, VP of threat intelligence at FireEye, said: "Advanced threat groups like APT 30 illustrate that state-sponsored cyber espionage affects a variety of governments and corporations across the world.

"Given the consistency and success of APT 30 in Southeast Asia and India, the threat intelligence on APT 30 we are sharing will help empower the region’s governments and businesses to quickly begin to detect, prevent, analyze and respond to this established threat."

Among the tools used by APT30 are backdoors, malware downloaders and even components that can cross air-gapped networks to attack computers that are not connected physically or wirelessly to the rest of the infrastructure.

According to the fraudulent emails used to begin the attack, the hackers appeared to be targeting information concerning political, military and economic issues, as well as media groups covering topics relating to the legitimacy of the Chinese government.

Other details unearthed by FireEye led the company to conclude APT30 were organised in a pseudo-professional structure, and may even work in shifts.

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"Where some threat groups might exchange one backdoor for another as newer, more flexible, or more feature-rich tools become available, APT30 has chosen to invest in the long-term refinement and development of what appear to be a dedicated set of tools," the report said.

"This suggests that APT30 (or the developers providing them with tools) has the ability to modify and adapt their source code to suit their current needs or their target environment."

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