Report: China the source of RSA hack, hundreds of others also hit

Evidence presented to Congress reportedly points to China as the source of the hack of RSA Security in March and identifies 760 companies, government agencies and other organizations that may have been hit by the same operation.

Security blogger Brian Krebbs, citing information he said was presented to congressional staffers, notes that of the more than 300 command-and-control networks used in the attacks, 299 are located in or around Beijing.

He also provides the list of organizations that were apparently compromised by parts of the same control infrastructure used to attack RSA, while noting that there are no details on how many networks in each organization were attacked, how successful any of those attacks were, or whether some of the organizations, such as ISPs, were linked incidentally.

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The list includes the General Services Administration, IRS, Homeland Security Department, several universities and major IT companies, such as Cisco Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Northrop Grumman, Research in Motion and Verisign.

The hack against RSA netted information about the company’s SecurID two-factor authentication tokens that was used in a failed attempt to hack defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

At the company’s conference in London earlier this month, RSA’s Executive Chairman Art Coviello said the attacks “could only have been perpetrated by a nation-state," because of the level of skill and resources required, but said RSA had not been able to identify the country.

The initial attack was an Advanced Persistent Threat that targeted information about SecurID, the company has said. Attackers used phishing techniques on RSA employees to get them to click on a link that delivered a zero-day exploit.

Coviello said there were two groups of hackers working in tandem.

Until now, there hadn’t been mention of so many other organizations being hit by the same group, although speculation about China’s involvement isn’t new. In August, Joe Stewart, director of malware research for Dell SecureWorks, told Computerworld that he had traced the command-and-control servers used for the RSA attack to networks in Beijing and Shanghai.

However, the location of servers doesn’t necessarily indicate the source of the attacks. As Stewart told Computerworld, “This gives us the where, but not the who."

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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Reader Comments

Mon, Oct 31, 2011 Lou Pennsylvania

Its been proven to be the Chinese government. Unbeknownst to the Chinese, while giving a tour of a facility which was being filmed, in the backround it could be seen, a military officer on a workstation performing a hack of an american IP. Lets punish them by pushing the reset button for our debt to them. For a supposed communist country, all they understand is the almighty dollar.

Fri, Oct 28, 2011

Just cut China's internet access to the world. Then you would see just how fast China would solve the problem with a fast bullet to the back of the head of their expendable citizens. Then beg the world to reinstate access.

Fri, Oct 28, 2011 PJ mi

We need to fix to keep things safe. hacker is hacker either from china, US or else where. It can fixed but just require hard look to basic of networking.

Thu, Oct 27, 2011

They have one. It's the predecessor to the internet and WWW. It is upgraded often, but sometimes a little dated as far as software running it. It's all fiber connections and encrypted sat-comms though. And the servers AND client workstations sit behind vault doors in basements, at secure facilities. Most people who don't use it, or work on it, don't know it's there. I have never known of a successful hack on it.

Thu, Oct 27, 2011

Instead of spending cycles trying to find who to point fingers at, perhaps it makes more sense to fix the holes?

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