Risk
5/2/2013
01:02 PM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
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
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Flash Poll
Current Issue
Cartoon
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-0972
Published: 2014-08-01
The kgsl graphics driver for the Linux kernel 3.x, as used in Qualcomm Innovation Center (QuIC) Android contributions for MSM devices and other products, does not properly prevent write access to IOMMU context registers, which allows local users to select a custom page table, and consequently write ...

CVE-2014-2627
Published: 2014-08-01
Unspecified vulnerability in HP NonStop NetBatch G06.14 through G06.32.01, H06 through H06.28, and J06 through J06.17.01 allows remote authenticated users to gain privileges for NetBatch job execution via unknown vectors.

CVE-2014-3009
Published: 2014-08-01
The GDS component in IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management - Collaborative Edition 10.0 through 11.0 and InfoSphere Master Data Management Server for Product Information Management 9.0 and 9.1 does not properly handle FRAME elements, which makes it easier for remote authenticated users to conduct ph...

CVE-2014-3302
Published: 2014-08-01
user.php in Cisco WebEx Meetings Server 1.5(.1.131) and earlier does not properly implement the token timer for authenticated encryption, which allows remote attackers to obtain sensitive information via a crafted URL, aka Bug ID CSCuj81708.

CVE-2014-3534
Published: 2014-08-01
arch/s390/kernel/ptrace.c in the Linux kernel before 3.15.8 on the s390 platform does not properly restrict address-space control operations in PTRACE_POKEUSR_AREA requests, which allows local users to obtain read and write access to kernel memory locations, and consequently gain privileges, via a c...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio