Hackers working for China’s Ministry of State Security broke into networks of eight of the world’s biggest technology service providers in an effort to steal commercial secrets from their clients, Reuters reported.
Technology service providers such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), IBM, Fujitsu, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), NTT Data, Dimension Data, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) and DXC Technology, HPE’s spun-off services arm, were the target of the global hacking campaign, known as Cloud Hopper.
A U.S. indictment in December outlined an elaborate operation to steal Western intellectual property in order to advance China’s economic interests but stopped short of naming victim companies.
Reuters has identified more than a dozen victims who were clients of the service providers. That list includes Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson, U.S. Navy shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries and travel reservation system Sabre.
HPE said it worked diligently for customers to mitigate the attack and protect information. DXC said it had robust security measures in place to protect itself and clients, neither of which have experienced a material impact due to Cloud Hopper.
NTT Data, Dimension Data, Tata Consultancy Services, Fujitsu and IBM declined to comment. IBM has previously said it has no evidence sensitive corporate data was compromised by the attacks.
Sabre said it disclosed a cybersecurity incident in 2015 and an investigation concluded no traveler data was accessed. A Huntington Ingalls spokeswoman said the company is “confident that there was no breach of any HII data” via HPE or DXC.
Ericsson said it does not comment on specific cybersecurity incidents. “While there have been attacks on our enterprise network, we have found no evidence in any of our extensive investigations that Ericsson’s infrastructure has ever been used as part of a successful attack on one of our customers,” a spokesman said.
The Chinese government has consistently denied all accusations of involvement in hacking. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Beijing opposed cyber-enabled industrial espionage. “The Chinese government has never in any form participated in or supported any person to carry out the theft of commercial secrets,” it said in a statement to Reuters.
The Cloud Hopper attacks carry worrying lessons for government officials and technology companies struggling to manage security threats.
Chinese hackers, including a group known as APT10, were able to continue the attacks in the face of a counter-offensive by top security specialists and despite a 2015 U.S.-China pact to refrain from economic espionage.
“This was a sustained series of attacks with a devastating impact,” said Robert Hannigan, former director of Britain’s GCHQ signals intelligence agency and now European chairman at cybersecurity firm BlueVoyant.