Risk

5/2/2013
01:02 PM
50%
50%

China Tied To 3-Year Hack Of Defense Contractor

U.S. defense contractor QinetiQ ignored persistent attack warning signs, lost terabytes of secret information, say investigators.

Anonymous: 10 Things We Have Learned In 2013
Anonymous: 10 Things We Have Learned In 2013
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
For three years, boutique defense contractor QinetiQ was compromised by an advanced persistent threat (APT) attack group operating from China. During that time, attackers accessed information about cutting-edge U.S. military drone and robot weapons systems and brought competing products to market.

Those allegations surfaced against QinetiQ North America Wednesday in a report from Bloomberg, which cited investigators hired by QinetiQ -- as well as HBGary emails that were stolen and leaked by Anonymous -- as sources. HBGary was one of several firms hired by the defense contractor to investigate apparent intrusions.

Investigators told Bloomberg that the ongoing attacks against QinetiQ (pronounced "kinetic") were launched by the Shanghai-based Comment Crew. Earlier this year, a report from security firm Mandiant tied the group -- which it dubbed APT1 -- to attacks that compromised 141 businesses, none of which it named, across 20 industries. According to Mandiant, the attackers weren't just supported by China, but actually part of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Unit 61398, which is an elite military hacking unit. Chinese officials denied those allegations.

[ How should your business react to the Chinese allegations? Read China Hack Attacks: Play Offense Or Defense? ]

Investigators hired by QinetiQ said that despite ongoing warnings from numerous organizations, including NASA and the Naval Criminal Investigative Unit, that the defense contractor's networks had been compromised, QinetiQ officials failed to realize that attackers were maintaining a persistent presence in their network and react accordingly.

"We found traces of the intruders in many of their divisions and across most of their product lines," Christopher Day -- until February, a senior VP at Verizon’s Terremark security division, which QinetiQ twice hired to investigate apparent intrusions -- told Bloomberg. "There was virtually no place we looked where we didn't find them."

As a result, investigators said that terabytes of data, including classified information relating to military robotics, drones and the Army's helicopter fleet, including PIN codes that could now be used to identify helicopters' deployment and combat-readiness, were stolen.

A QinetiQ spokesman didn't immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on the report, or what information security changes the business might have made as a result.

Attacks that aim to steal military secrets from defense contractors and their subcontractors are nothing new. A 2010 report from the Defense Security Service branch of the Department of Defense warned that "the United States' technical lead, competitive edge, and strategic military advantage are at risk; and our national security interests could be compromised" by what it said were an escalating number of "pervasive, relentless, and unfortunately, at times, successful" information security attacks against defense contractors.

But many reported incidents, such as the theft of information relating to the advanced Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jet in 2009, have been far more extensive than public accounts have suggested. Interestingly, China conducted the first test flight of its own stealth fighter in November 2012. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that the theft of information relating to the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor lead some intelligence officials to suggest that it might be unsuitable for combat because stolen information might be used to compromise critical systems.

The QinetiQ hack attack campaign recalls the 10-year breach of Nortel, during which time attackers maintained a persistent presence inside the company's network. Attackers stole numerous telecommunications and networking secrets, despite persistent signs that the Nortel network had been compromised.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Want Your Daughter to Succeed in Cyber? Call Her John
John De Santis, CEO, HyTrust,  5/16/2018
Don't Roll the Dice When Prioritizing Vulnerability Fixes
Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer, Dark Reading,  5/15/2018
New Mexico Man Sentenced on DDoS, Gun Charges
Dark Reading Staff 5/18/2018
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: "Security through obscurity"
Current Issue
Flash Poll
[Strategic Security Report] Navigating the Threat Intelligence Maze
[Strategic Security Report] Navigating the Threat Intelligence Maze
Most enterprises are using threat intel services, but many are still figuring out how to use the data they're collecting. In this Dark Reading survey we give you a look at what they're doing today - and where they hope to go.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-8142
PUBLISHED: 2018-05-21
A security feature bypass exists when Windows incorrectly validates kernel driver signatures, aka "Windows Security Feature Bypass Vulnerability." This affects Windows Server 2016, Windows 10, Windows 10 Servers. This CVE ID is unique from CVE-2018-1035.
CVE-2018-11311
PUBLISHED: 2018-05-20
A hardcoded FTP username of myscada and password of Vikuk63 in 'myscadagate.exe' in mySCADA myPRO 7 allows remote attackers to access the FTP server on port 2121, and upload files or list directories, by entering these credentials.
CVE-2018-11319
PUBLISHED: 2018-05-20
Syntastic (aka vim-syntastic) through 3.9.0 does not properly handle searches for configuration files (it searches the current directory up to potentially the root). This improper handling might be exploited for arbitrary code execution via a malicious gcc plugin, if an attacker has write access to ...
CVE-2018-11242
PUBLISHED: 2018-05-20
An issue was discovered in the MakeMyTrip application 7.2.4 for Android. The databases (locally stored) are not encrypted and have cleartext that might lead to sensitive information disclosure, as demonstrated by data/com.makemytrip/databases and data/com.makemytrip/Cache SQLite database files.
CVE-2018-11315
PUBLISHED: 2018-05-20
The Local HTTP API in Radio Thermostat CT50 and CT80 1.04.84 and below products allows unauthorized access via a DNS rebinding attack. This can result in remote device temperature control, as demonstrated by a tstat t_heat request that accesses a device purchased in the Spring of 2018, and sets a ho...