Security firm: Hackers hit chemical companies

Nov 01, 2011 By JOE McDONALD , AP Business Writer

(AP) -- Cyber attacks traced to China targeted at least 48 chemical and military-related companies in an effort to steal technical secrets, a U.S. computer security company said Tuesday, adding to complaints about pervasive Internet crime linked to this country.

The targets included 29 chemical companies and 19 others that make used by the military, California-based . said in a report. It said the group included multiple Fortune 100 companies but did not identify them or say where they were located.

"The purpose of the attacks appears to be , collecting intellectual property for competitive advantage," said the report.

say China is a center for Internet crime. Attacks against governments, companies and human rights groups have been traced to this country, though finding the precise source is nearly impossible. China's military is a leader in cyberwarfare research but the government has rejected allegations of cyberspying and says it also is a .

The latest attacks occurred between late July and September and used e-mails sent to companies to plant software dubbed "PoisonIvy" in their computers, Symantec said. It said the same hackers also were involved in attacks earlier this year on and .

Symantec said it traced the attacks to a computer system owned by a Chinese man in his 20s in the central province of Hebei. It said that when contacted, the man provided a contact who would perform "hacking for hire."

Symantec said it could not determine whether the was a lone attacker, whether he had a direct or indirect role or whether he hacked the targets for someone else. It called him Covert Grove based on a translation of his Chinese name.

The U.S. and Chinese governments have accused each other of being involved in industrial espionage.

Security consultants say the high skill level of earlier attacks traced to China suggests its military or other government agencies might be stealing technology and trade secrets to help state companies.

The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, said last month that Chinese efforts to steal U.S. technology over the Internet had reached an "intolerable level." He called on the U.S. and other governments to pressure Beijing to stop.

Another security firm, McAfee Inc., said in August it had found a five-year-long hacking campaign that it called Operation Shady Rat against more than 70 governments, international institutions, corporations and think tanks.

In February, McAfee said hackers operating from China stole information from oil companies in the United States, Taiwan, Greece and Kazakhstan about operations, financing and bidding for oil fields.

Thousands of Chinese computer enthusiasts belong to hacker clubs and experts say some are supported by the military to develop a pool of possible recruits. Experts say military-trained civilians also might work as contractors for companies that want to steal technology or business secrets from rivals.

China has the world's biggest population of Internet users, with more than 450 million people online, and the government promotes Web use for business and education. But experts say security for many computers in China is so poor that they are vulnerable to being taken over and used to hide the source of attacks from elsewhere.

Last year, Google Inc. closed its China-based search engine after complaining of cyber attacks from China against its e-mail service.

That case highlighted the difficulty of tracking hackers. Experts said that even if the Google were traced to a computer in China, it would have to be examined in person to be sure it wasn't hijacked by an attacker abroad.

Explore further: Facebook's Zuckerberg wants to figure out social equation

0 shares

Related Stories

Salesman: Hackers use Chinese company's servers

Feb 11, 2011

(AP) -- A Chinese man cited by a U.S. security firm as being linked to cyberspying on Western oil companies said Friday his company rents server space to hundreds of hackers. ...

Report: Hackers in China hit Western oil companies

Feb 10, 2011

(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.

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.

China hit by 500,000 cyberattacks in 2010

Aug 09, 2011

China said Tuesday it was hit by nearly 500,000 cyberattacks last year, about half of which originated from foreign countries including the United States and India.

Google says Chinese hackers broke into Gmail

Jun 01, 2011

(AP) -- Computer hackers in China broke into the Gmail accounts of several hundred people, including senior U.S. government officials, military personnel and political activists, Google Inc. said Wednesday.

Recommended for you

New approach to online compatibility

22 hours ago

Many of the online social networks match users with each other based on common keywords and assumed shared interests based on their activity. A new approach that could help users find new friends and contacts with a greater ...

Most internet anonymity software leaks users' details

Jun 29, 2015

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are legal and increasingly popular for individuals wanting to circumvent censorship, avoid mass surveillance or access geographically limited services like Netflix and BBC ...

WikiLeaks says NSA spied on French business

Jun 29, 2015

WikiLeaks has released documents that it says show that the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on France's top finance officials and high-stakes French export bids over a decade in what the group called targeted economic ...

Google gets extended deadline to answer EU case

Jun 29, 2015

Brussels has given Google an extension until mid-August to answer an anti-trust case alleging that the tech giant abuses its search engine's market dominance, a company spokesman said Monday.

Facebook opens first Africa office

Jun 29, 2015

Facebook announced Monday it had opened its first African office in Johannesburg as part of its efforts "to help people and businesses connect" on the continent.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.