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China blamed for multi-continent cyberspying caper in 2011

For six months in 2011, cyberspies infiltrated, undetected, at least 20 commercial and industrial organizations on three continents, states a new report by a US-based cybersecurity firm. Investigators name China as 'most logical' benefactor.

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For six months last year, cyberspies infiltrated and siphoned key data from the computer networks of at least 20 organizations in the US, Australia, Canada, and Europe – all of them with policy, economic, or political interests pending in China – then laundered them through a coopted server in the US and transmitted the information to China.

Operating undetected from late March to mid-September 2011, the sprawling cyberespionage program targeted, among others, a mining executive doing deals in China during a steel shortage there, Canadian immigration officials dealing with a Chinese businessman fleeing prosecution in Canada, and an international maritime executive promoting a new vessel design standard to minimize greenhouse gas emissions – a move China had publicly refuted.

Unlike cybercriminals who typically convert ill-gotten data – such as credit-card numbers – into quick cash, the attacker appeared to be trying to win long-term economic and strategic advantage for an unknown client in China, says a new report by Cyber Squared, an Arlington, Va., cybersecurity firm.

"When you look at all those independent targets as a collective, you start to see that whoever launched such a campaign had great resources and very large motives that were geopolitical and strategic in nature," Adam Vincent, CEO of Cyber Squared, says in an interview. "In this case it's commercial, not military, information that's the primary focus. We're dealing with an advanced, sophisticated, and highly resourced adversary that makes it their job to get into our organizations and conduct espionage operations."

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