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Multiple Chinese APTs establish major beachheads inside US infrastructure

A motherboard has been photoshopped to include a Chinese flag.

Enlarge (credit: Steve McDowell / Agefotostock)

Hacking teams working for the Chinese government are intent on burrowing into the farthest reaches of US infrastructure and establishing permanent presences there if possible. In the past two years, they have scored some wins that could seriously threaten national security.

If that wasn’t clear before, three reports released in the past week make it abundantly so. In one published by security firm Kaspersky, researchers detailed a suite of advanced spying tools used over the past two years by one group to establish a “permanent channel for data exfiltration” inside industrial infrastructure primarily in Europe and the US. A second report published Sunday by The New York Times said that a different group working for the Chinese government had hidden malware that could cause disruptions deep inside the critical infrastructure used by US military bases around the world. Those reports came nine days after Microsoft revealed a breach of email accounts belonging to 25 of its cloud customers, including the Departments of State and Commerce.

The operations appear to be coming from separate departments inside the Chinese government and targeting different parts of US and European infrastructure. The first group, tracked under the name Zirconium, is out to steal data from the targets it infects. A different group, known as Volt Typhoon, according to the NYT, aims to gain the long-term ability to cause disruptions inside US bases, possibly for use in the event of an armed conflict. In both cases, the groups are endeavoring to create permanent beachheads where they can surreptitiously set up shop.

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