Monday, August 8, 2011

Massive cyberspying operation targeted U.S., U.N., others

cnn.com London (CNN) -- U.S. government agencies, the United Nations, defense contractors and Olympic bodies have all been targeted by a single intruder in an "unprecedented" campaign of cyberspying, says a new report by a computer-security firm.

The operation, which targeted agencies and groups in 14 countries, bears the hallmarks of state-sponsored espionage, according to the report by security company McAfee. Other cybersecurity experts downplayed the report's findings, however.

McAfee said the attacks, which it calls Operation Shady RAT, have allowed hackers potentially to gain access to military and industrial secrets from 72 targets, most of them in the United States, over a five-year period.

McAfee did not name all the targets but said the sheer scope of victims, including 14 U.S. government bodies; the governments of Canada, India, South Korea and Taiwan; defense contractors; the International Olympic Committee; and even a cybersecurity company, indicates no one is safe.

Dmitri Alperovitch, McAfee's vice president of threat research, said attacks on political nonprofit groups indicated a "state actor" could be behind the operation. He declined to name a specific country, but media reports have pointed a finger at China.

When contacted by CNN, an official at the Chinese embassy said that the allegations were unwarranted, irresponsible and an attempt to vilify China. The official added that China, too, has been a victim of hacking and that the country wants to work with other countries to end the problem.

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