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April 15, 2014

German space research centre hit by cyberattack

Targeted APT malware assault infected computers used by top scientists.

By Vinod

Germany’s national space research centre has been hit by a malware attack that appears to stem from foreign, state-sponsored sources, it has been revealed.

The Cologne-based German Aerospace Centre (DLR) confirmed reports from Der Spiegel that it had suffered a significant cyber attack which had lasted for several months. The source appears to be a foreign intelligence service, which planted malware on computers used by the DLR’s scientists and systems admins.

The DLR has called in Germany’s National Cyber Defence Centre, based in Bonn, to investigate the breach.

An unnamed DLR spokesperson confirmed that several computers used by staff had been infiltrated by spyware, but did not want to comment on the source behind the attack.

However, Der Spiegel said the investigators found clues that pointed to the attack coming from China, but added that those signs could also be "camouflage" used to disguise the real identities of the attackers.

The attack was "co-ordinated and systematic", the investigators said, with some of the Trojans used in the malware designed to destroy itself when detected, while other malware lay silent for several months before being activated, according to the report.

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Established in 1969, the DLR is Germany’s national centre for aerospace, energy and transportation research. It is responsible for planning and implementing the German space programme, and recently announced a partnership with US space agency NASA to test alternative fuels.

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