recommended reading

Security Firm Says Chinese Hackers Targeting U.S. Experts on Iraq

Duc Dao/

A private cyber security firm has discovered evidence that a suspected Chinese government hacker group has been targeting U.S. experts on Iraq.

CrowdStrike — a firm consisting of former U.S. government officials and credited with exposing the motives of Russian hacker group Energetic Bear — claims they have discovered that hackers belonging to "Deep Panda" have shifted from attacking experts associated with Southeast Asian geopolitical affairs to attacking the computers of U.S. think tank employees specializing in Iraq. The hacking began on June 18 —the day the rebel group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacked an oil refinery. 

"They immediately started going after Middle East specialists and experts, so it was a clear indication they were receiving tasking," CrowdStrike VP of Intelligence Adam Meyers told The Wire. "They're definitely one of the more advanced actors operating out of China."

In a company blog post published Monday, co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch wrote that Iraq, as the fifth-largest source of crude oil for China, presented a worthy target of concern for the Chinese government. 

Meyers says the group accessed digital documents by using "powershell scripts," a tool that initiates the download of a malicious software called "MadHatter" typically used by Deep Panda to infiltrate machines. The tool also doesn't leave data behind on victim disks, but because CrowdStrike had been tracing the group's activities since 2011 , the firm noticed the behavior pattern and attributed it to Deep Panda.

Chinese officials have already dismissed the report.

"Some U.S. Internet security firms ignore the U.S. threat to the Internet and constantly seize upon the so-called China Internet threat," spokesman Hong Lei said at a news conference in Beijing. "The evidence they produce is fundamentally untrustworthy and unworthy of comment."

Though Meyers said CrowdStrike does not know the size of Deep Panda, the firm has found the group tends to strike organizations en masse at least once a month. 

Threatwatch Alert

Network intrusion / Spear-phishing

Researchers: Bank-Targeting Malware Sales Rise in Dark Web Markets

See threatwatch report


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.