A report from iDefense, a cybersecurity firm, shows that Chinese hackers targeted universities from the USA and other countries in the world to access maritime military research.
It is easier for hackers to target universities and not the military since the former have lower security. Some universities receive funds from the government for their research which will later have military application, which is why the data is sensitive.
“The hackers sent universities spear phishing emails doctored to appear as if they came from partner universities, but they unleashed a malicious payload when opened,” wrote the report.
Among the 27 universities targeted by the hackers were the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Washington, some colleges in Southeast Asia and Canada. The report from iDefense didn’t include all the names of the universities, but The Verge found out that sources close to the issue mentioned Penn State and Duke University among the targeted universities.
The Chinese Hackers only focused on universities that did research on underwater technology or had faculty close to this field or was connected with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (the oceanic research institute), which is also connected to the US Navy’s warfare center.
According to iDefense, the institute was highly likely to have been breached. However, Woods Hole said there was no evidence of security breach.
Is This Cyberattack Affiliated With The Chinese Government?
This group’s attacks started in April 2017, and they have been received many names – Temp. Periscope, Mudcarp, or Leviathan. Researchers in cybersecurity suspect that the group could be affiliated with the Chinese Government since US military data was targeted. Last June, when a US Navy contractor was hacked, the suspicions were similar.
This report is making it harder for tech companies like Huawei and ZTE, and now the US-China relations are sensitive. The recent Chinese cyberattacks complicate everything, and US intelligence agencies already have security fears when it comes to national security. Moreover, the US wants its allies to limit Huawei’s future 5G network, saying that it could be a national security threat.