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Massive cyberattacks from China? Report claims to expose secret 'Unit 61398.' (+video)

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The Mandiant findings make sense to L.C. Russell Hsiao, a senior research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, a nonprofit group in Arlington, Va., that has made a specialty of analyzing China's cyber and signals intelligence units within the PLA.

In 2011, Project 2049 produced a report that also identifies Unit 61398 as a cyberespionage group run by the PLA that “appears to function as the Third Department’s premier entity targeting the United States and Canada, most likely focusing on political, economic, and military-related intelligence.”

Among the details in the Mandiant report:

  • Some 3,000 digital indicators linked to APT1, such as domain names, IP addresses, and MD5 hashes of malware the group uses.
  • A list of more than 40 families of malware in APT1’s arsenal of digital weapons along with 13 encryption certificates the group used.
  • A collection of videos showing actual attacker sessions.
  • Documents including one in which an Internet provider agrees to install high-speed fiber optic lines for the unit at the building address.
  • The identification of three individuals affiliated with APT1 with the hacker handles Ugly Gorilla, DOTA, and SuperHard.

“We believe the totality of the evidence we provide in this document bolsters the claim that APT1 is Unit 61398,” the report concludes.

Indeed, the report “provides a new baseline for the [intelligence] communities looking at these cyberespionage groups to ascertain the different groups and their activities,” Mr. Hsiao says.

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