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Threatwatch

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

SCADA attack; Spear-phishing; Unauthorized use of system administrator privileges

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.”

sector

Other Critical Infrastructure

reported

August 2, 2013

reported by

MIT Technology Review

number affected

Unknown

location of breach

United States

perpetrators

Chinese Hackers

location of perpetrators

China

date breach occurred

December 2012

date breach detected

December 2012