China-linked Hackers Used VPN Flaw to Target US Military Industry
By Staff, Agencies
At least two groups of China-linked hackers have spent months using a previously undisclosed vulnerability in American virtual private networking devices to spy on the US military industry, researchers and the devices' manufacturer said Tuesday.
Utah-based IT Company Ivanti said in a statement the hackers took advantage of the flaw in its Pulse Connect Secure suite to break into the systems of "a very limited number of customers."
Ivanti said that while mitigations were in place, a fix for the issue would be unavailable until early May.
Ivanti provided no detail about who might be responsible for the espionage campaign but, in a report timed to Ivanti's announcement, Cybersecurity Company FireEye Inc [FEYE.O] said it suspected that at least one of the hacking groups operates on behalf of the Chinese government.
"The other one we suspect is aligned with China-based initiatives and collections," said Charles Carmakal, a senior vice president of Mandiant, an arm of Fireye, ahead of the report's release.
Tying hackers to a specific country is fraught with uncertainty, but Carmakal said his analysts' judgment was based on a review of the hackers' tactics, tools, infrastructure and targets - many of which echoed past China-linked intrusions.
Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said China "firmly opposes and cracks down on all forms of cyber-attacks," describing FireEye's allegations as "irresponsible and ill-intentioned."
FireEye declined to name the hackers' targets, identifying them only as "military, government, and financial organizations around the world." It said the group of hackers suspected of working on Beijing's behalf were particularly focused on the US military industry.
In a statement, the cyber arm of the Department of Homeland Security said it was working with Ivanti "to better understand the vulnerability in Pulse Secure VPN devices and mitigate potential risks to federal civilian and private sector networks."
The US National Security Agency declined to comment. US officials have repeatedly accused Chinese hackers of stealing American military secrets over the years through various means.