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Massive global cyberattack hits US hard: Who could have done it?

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'Massive economic threat'

The impact of that loss represents a “massive economic threat” not only to companies and industries but whole nations that now could see diminished economic growth as the global competitive landscape intensifies – and jobs lost, according to McAfee's report, “Revealed: Operation Shady RAT.” RAT is an acronym for “Remote Access Tool.”

Unlike typical cybercriminals, McAfee says the cyberspies showed keen interest in nonmonetary information, infiltrating economic trade groups, think tanks and political and nonprofit groups – even international sports. Asian and Western national Olympic Committees were targets, as were the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and World Anti-Doping Agency – both hit in the months before and after the 2008 Olympics.

These latter instances “potentially pointed a finger at a state actor behind the intrusions, because there is likely no commercial benefit” behind such hacks, the McAfee report said. The cyberspies also targeted the computer networks of political nonprofits, private Western groups that promote democracy, and a US national security think tank. Beside the UN, the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) was also hacked.

Even though McAfee did not name the country believed to be behind the attacks, their scope, targets, and technical skill left other cyberexperts strongly suspecting a nation frequently cited as the perpetrator behind many cyberespionage probes: China.

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