Chinese Military Group Identified in Attacks on U.S. Networks: Mandiant
Incident response firm Mandiant and U.S. intelligence officials gather evidence that shows hundreds of attacks coming from a single building on the outskirts of Shanghai calling it a major Chinese military operation.For the first time, cyber security experts have publicly identified an ongoing campaign of information-stealing Internet attacks with a group linked to China's military. In a report released on Feb. 19, incident-response firm Mandiant argued that a group within the People's Liberation Army known as Unit 61398 is responsible for more than 140 attacks investigated by the firm since 2006. Among the targets:a large wholesale company that lost a price battle with China and security firm RSA, which attackers breached in 2011 to steal data related to its SecurID one-time password technology. The report brings together a large body of evidence—more than 3,000 indicators—as well as profiling three individuals that conduct specific duties in the unit. The company is "strongly certain" of the connection between the group--known internally at Mandiant at "APT1"--and the Chinese military, said Richard Bejtlich, chief security officer for the firm. While it used Internet addresses, which are widely acknowledged as unreliable indicators of identity, as part of the information it collected, the company's researchers mainly relied on other aspects of the attacks. "When you factor in all the other elements of the group—the tools that they use, the ways that they operate—we just saw all the arrows pointing in the same direction here," Bejtlich said. "This is the best you can get with unclassified sources."
While the attacks by the group, known by other security firms as the "Comment Group" for their penchant to comment their HTML code, were found only a handful of times in 2006 and 2007, the attacks were much more frequent in the past two years. On average, the group infiltrated and stayed resident in victims’ networks for almost a year, Mandiant found.