Though no exact figures were released, a new report claims that last year’s almost daily cyber raids on Silicon Valley firms, U.S. military contractors, and major commercial targets by Chinese state-sponsored hackers have been significantly curtailed so far this year.
The assumed reason: Chinese president Xi Jinping has brought the Chinese military – thought to be the main sponsor of that Communist nation’s cyber global attacks – even more under his control. In a similar crackdown, Xi has acted to suppress Chinese media, bloggers and others who challenge the Communist Party online.
The study was conducted by FireEye, a U.S. company that manages large network breaches, as reported June 20 by The New York Times.
The most cogent Times excerpt: “It’s a mixed bag,” said Kevin Mandia, the founder of Mandiant, now part of FireEye, which first detailed the activities of a People’s Liberation Army cyber-arm, called Unit 61398, that had been responsible for some of the most highly publicized thefts of American technology. “We still see semiconductor companies and aerospace firms attacked.”
Today, said the report, Unit 61398 appears to be largely out of business. Its state-sponsored hackers have been dispersed to other military, private and intelligence units.
As a result, the Chinese-based hackers have recently moved their focus from the U.S. to more vulnerable targets in Russia, South Korea and Vietnam.
Another factor: The bi-national agreement reached nearly a year ago by President Obama and Mr. Xi that covered a wide range of intellectual property theft by Chinese agents.
Amid the good news, there’s still plenty of bad: The FireEye report concludes that while Chinese attacks on U.S. targets have decreased in volume, they have increased in sophistication.
The conclusion: Chinese hackers are now more like Russian-based hackers. They pick their targets more carefully, and cover their tracks more effectively.
“We see a threat that is less voluminous but more focused, calculated, and still successful in compromising corporate networks,” the report said.
Let’s be careful out there.
By Darin Andersen