Report: Hackers in China hit Western oil companies

Feb 10, 2011 By JOE McDONALD , AP Business Writer

(AP) -- Hackers operating from China stole sensitive information from Western oil companies, a U.S. security firm reported Thursday, adding to complaints about pervasive Internet crime traced to the country.

The report by McAfee Inc. did not identify the companies but said the "coordinated, covert and targeted" attacks began in November 2009 and targeted computers of oil and gas companies in the United States, Taiwan, Greece and Kazakhstan. It said the attackers stole information on operations, bidding for oil fields and financing.

"We have identified the tools, techniques, and network activities used in these continuing attacks - which we have dubbed Night Dragon - as originating primarily in ," said the report.

Google Inc. closed its China-based search engine last year after complaining of cyberattacks from China against its e-mail service.

Security consultants say China is a leading center for Internet crime including industrial spying aimed at major companies. Consultants say the high skill level of earlier attacks suggests China's military, a leader in cyberwarfare research, or other government agencies might be stealing technology and trade secrets to help state companies.

The has denied it is involved.

Officials in the United States, Germany and Britain say hackers linked to China's military have broken into government and defense systems. Attacks on commercial systems receive less attention because companies rarely come forward, possibly for fear it might erode trust in their businesses.

McAfee, based in Santa Clara, California, said the hackers worked through servers in the United States and the Netherlands and used techniques including taking advantage of vulnerabilities in the Microsoft .

McAfee said it identified an individual in the eastern Chinese city of Heze in Shandong province who provided servers that hosted an application that controlled computers at the victim companies. The report did not identify the person and said he was not believed to be the scheme's mastermind.

McAfee said extraction of information occurred from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Beijing time on weekdays. It said that suggested the attackers were "company men" on a regular job, rather than freelance or amateur hackers.

The attackers used hacking tools of Chinese origin that are prevalent on Chinese underground hacking forums, McAfee said.

Google announced last January that cyberattacks from China hit it and at least 20 other companies. Google says it has "conclusive evidence" the attacks came from China but declined to say whether the government was involved.

cited those attacks and attempts to snoop on dissidents in announcing it wanted to stop censoring search results in China, which the communist government requires. The company closed its China-based search engine last March.

In 2009, a Canadian research group said a China-based ring stole information from thousands of hard drives worldwide. The Information Warfare Monitor said attackers broke into government and private organizations in 103 countries, including the computers of the Dalai Lama and his exiled Tibetan government.

There are no estimates of losses attributable to hacking traced to China, but McAfee has said previously that intellectual property worth an estimated $1 trillion was stolen worldwide through the Internet in 2008.

Explore further: Twitter blocks two accounts on its Turkish network

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Google complaint highlights China-based hacking

Feb 03, 2010

(AP) -- Google's accusation that its e-mail accounts were hacked from China landed like a bombshell because it cast light on a problem that few companies will discuss: the pervasive threat from China-based cyberattacks.

Report: China hackers stole key Google program

Apr 20, 2010

(AP) -- Computer hackers stole a program that controlled access to most of Google Inc.'s services when they attacked the Internet company late last year, according to a report published late Monday.

Report: China-based hackers stole India secrets

Apr 06, 2010

(AP) -- China-based hackers stole Indian national security information, 1,500 e-mails from the Dalai Lama's office and other sensitive documents, a new report said Tuesday.

Recommended for you

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

Apr 18, 2014

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

Apr 18, 2014

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

White House updating online privacy policy

Apr 18, 2014

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

User comments : 8

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

StarDust21
3.6 / 5 (5) Feb 10, 2011
will china ever be able to create something of their own instead of steeling and copying others innovations?
Doschx
2 / 5 (3) Feb 10, 2011
The Romans defeated Carthage after stealing and reverse engineering a technologically superior warship then utilizing it much more effectively. I think it's simply human nature to do such things, though it seems to be a defensive or survivalist type of move given the inherent risks and timeframes involved.
Ultimately, be glad that they must steal from westerners, and fear the day when western civs must steal from China.
Just my opinion.
pt30
5 / 5 (2) Feb 10, 2011
It is very difficult for me to believe that the Chinese Gov is not involved in any of these cases.
paulthebassguy
1 / 5 (1) Feb 10, 2011
will china ever be able to create something of their own instead of steeling and copying others innovations?


At the moment their whole education system is based on rote learning so the mindset needed by thinkers & innovators rarely emerges. Until this changes then the answer to this question is a NO.
antialias
5 / 5 (2) Feb 11, 2011
While not nice this isn't exactly novel behavior for countries to do.

E.g. there are eavesdropping stations for wireless communications (run by the US) all over germany. That these have been used for decades to spy on german companies is an open secret.
Sanescience
1 / 5 (1) Feb 11, 2011
I'm sure everybody does some level of snooping and such, but the sheer disdain shown for intellectual property rights is quite astonishing.

But it is the brash in your face economic distortions that China utilizes that is more worrisome.

"What, pegging our currency to your dollar gives us global trade advantages no matter what your money policy does... is unfair? To bad, we will do it anyway. Oh, and if your currency experiences inflation we will bitterly complain and seek WTO reparations for devaluing the piles of your cash we have. Oh, and we cant feed our people? Don't think were going to let our market buy US food products at elevated prices even though we have all these piles of cash. Much better for people to starve, we have too many anyways."
Sanescience
not rated yet Feb 11, 2011
HOWEVER... that said, being China is no easy feat, and I have to give them creds for keeping a lid on all the cultural factions that *hate* one another in China under control. They walk a *very* thin line to improve the lives of their people without sparking class warfare and descending into civil war, as China regularly does.

That is how Taiwan came about not that long ago!
frajo
not rated yet Feb 13, 2011
They walk a *very* thin line to improve the lives of their people without sparking class warfare and descending into civil war, as China regularly does.

That is how Taiwan came about not that long ago!
It's remarkable how readily some people are presenting their ignorance of history.

More news stories

Growing app industry has developers racing to keep up

Smartphone application developers say they are challenged by the glut of apps as well as the need to update their software to keep up with evolving phone technology, making creative pricing strategies essential to finding ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.