Alleged Chinese military hackers exploit trap U.S. water plant

Other Critical Infrastructure // United States

A suspected government-sponsored Chinese hacking team penetrated a decoy U.S. water utility, according to a researcher who rigged the artifice.

Earlier this year, cyber forensics firm Mandiant released a landmark paper tying the group, APT1, to the Chinese military. On July 31, Trend Micro researcher Kyle Wilhoit revealed that he had caught the team poking around in a sham water plant late last year.

The assault began in December 2012 when a Word document hiding malicious software was used to gain full access to the researcher’s U.S.-based decoy system, or “honeypot.”

Wilhoit identified the attackers based on the malware they used and other characteristics unique to APT1.

“You would think that Comment Crew wouldn’t come after a local water authority,” Wilhoit told MIT Technology Review, but the group clearly didn’t attack the honeypot by accident while seeking another target. “I actually watched the attacker interface with the machine,” he said. “It was 100 percent clear they knew what they were doing.”