Chinese hackers spied on investigators of Flight MH370 - report

Classified data on flight's disappearance pinched

Website security in corporate America

Malaysian officials investigating the disappearance of flight MH370 have been targeted in a hacking attack that resulted in the theft of classified material.

The malware-based hacking attack hit around 30 PCs assigned to officials in the Malaysia Airlines, the Civil Aviation Department and the National Security Council, a security firm working on the hack told Malaysian newspaper The Star.

The malware was hidden in a PDF attachment posing as a news article that was distributed on 9 March, just one day after the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The hoax news report falsely claimed the Malaysian Airlines jet had been found.

The infection was detected, but not before all manner of sensitive documents were siphoned off from compromised systems and channelled via email to an IP address in China. The methodology of the attacks matched those of so-called spear phishing assaults that are normally directed towards cyber-espionage and the theft of industrial secrets.

“Those email contained confidential data from the officials’ computer, including minutes of meetings and classified documents,” explained Amirudin Abdul Wahab, chief executive at CyberSecurity Malaysia, Singapore-based The Straits Times reports. “Some of these were related to the MH370 investigation.”

"This was well-crafted malware that antivirus programs couldn't detect. It was a very sophisticated attack," Wahab added.

Abnormally high network loads and congested email servers prompted the affected agencies to call in the security firm for assistance.

The Malaysian government agency reckons the hack was directly related to the disappearance of MH370 and aimed at obtaining undisclosed or suppressed material related to the loss of the plane. MH370 had been carrying 239 people when it disappeared. CyberSecurity Malaysia is working with Interpol in investigating the security breach.

The Boeing 777 changed course shortly after leaving Malaysian airspace and is thought to have subsequently flown south over the Indian Ocean. A high-profile international operation based in Perth, Australia, in the weeks that followed failed to recover flight recorders, a crash site or even debris from the aircraft.

Malaysia's handling of the search for the plane was the focus of protests by Chinese families caught up in the tragedy – altogether 153 Chinese nationals were on board the missing plane. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Blood-crazed Microsoft axes Trustworthy Computing Group
Security be not a dirty word, me Satya. But crevice, bigod...
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
prev story


Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.