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Chinese hackers targeted G20 in Syria-themed attack

FireEye spills the beans on 'Ke3chang' group

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A Chinese hacking group managed to penetrate the networks of five European Union member states in advance of last year’s G20 Summit in a likely bid to lift data on the Syrian crisis, according to FireEye.

The security firm told Reuters it monitored the classic targeted attack campaign for around a week in late August 2012, ahead of a summit dominated by the escalating civil war in Syria.

During that time spear phishing emails with malicious file attachments with titles such as "US_military_options_in_Syria” successfully breached the systems of five unnamed foreign ministries, it said.

Unfortunately the hackers jumped to another C&C server shortly before the September summit, losing their tail, but FireEye said it believed they were just about to begin exfiltrating data.

The group, nicknamed “Ke3chang”, has apparently been around for several years although this represents its official public outing. It’s suspected it may have previously targeted the G20 Finance Ministers meeting in Paris in 2011.

FireEye researcher Nart Villeneuve told the newswire that pretty compelling evidence links the group to China, including the language used on the C&C server and the type of machines the group employs to test its malware.

However, as always, there are no hard links back to the Chinese government, which maintains it is a victim and not a perpetrator of cyber crime – even post-Mandiant’s APT1 revelations.

What the US, and the info-security community, really needs is a whistleblower behind the Great Firewall to even things up a bit. ®

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