WASHINGTON (AP) — Chinese hacking attempts on American corporate intellectual property have occurred with regularity over the past three weeks, suggesting that China almost immediately began violating its newly minted cyberagreement with the United States, according to a newly published analysis by a cybersecurity company with close ties to the U.S. government.
The Irvine, California-based company, CrowdStrike, says it documented seven Chinese cyberattacks against U.S. technology and pharmaceuticals companies “where the primary benefit of the intrusions seems clearly aligned to facilitate theft of intellectual property and trade secrets, rather than to conduct traditional national security-related intelligence collection.”
“We’ve seen no change in behavior,” said Dmitri Alperovich, a founder of CrowdStrike who wrote one of the first public accounts of commercial cyberespionage linked to China in 2011.
One attack came on Sept. 26, CrowdStrike says, the day after President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced their deal in the White House Rose Garden. CrowdStrike, which employs former FBI and National Security Agency cyberexperts, did not name the corporate victims, citing client confidentiality. And the company says it detected and thwarted the attacks before any corporate secrets were stolen.
A senior Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the matter publicly, said officials are aware of the report but would not comment on its conclusions. The official did not dispute them, however.
The U.S. will continue to directly raise concerns regarding cybersecurity with the Chinese, monitor the country’s cyberactivities closely and press China to abide by all of its commitments, the official added.
The U.S.-China agreement forged last month does not prohibit cyberspying for national security purposes, but it bans economic espionage designed to steal trade secrets for the benefit of competitors. That is something the U.S. says it doesn’t do, but Western intelligence agencies have documented such attacks by China on a massive scale for years.
China denies engaging in such behavior, but threats of U.S. sanctions led Chinese officials to conduct a flurry of last-minute negotiations which led to the deal.
CrowdStrike on Monday released a timeline of recent intrusions linked to China that it says it documented against “commercial entities that fit squarely within the hacking prohibitions covered under the cyberagreement.”
The intrusion attempts are continuing, the company says, “with many of the China-affiliated actors persistently attempting to regain access to victim networks even in the face of repeated failures.”
CrowdStrike did not explain in detail how it attributes the intrusions to China, an omission that is likely to draw criticism, given the ability of hackers to disguise their origins. But the company has a long track record of gathering intelligence on Chinese hacking groups, and U.S. intelligence officials have often pointed to the company’s work.
“We assess with a high degree of confidence that these intrusions were undertaken by a variety of different Chinese actors, including Deep Panda, which CrowdStrike has tracked for many years breaking into national security targets of strategic importance to China,” Alperovich wrote in a blog posting that laid out his findings.
The hacking group known as Deep Panda, which has been linked to the Chinese military, is believed by many researchers to have carried out the attack on insurer Anthem Health earlier this year.
CrowdStrike and other companies have tracked Deep Panda back to China based on the malware and techniques it uses, its working hours and other intelligence.
In 2013, another cybersecurity company, Mandiant, published a report exposing what it said was a hacking unit linked to China’s People’s Liberation Army, including identifying the building housing the unit in Beijing. Those findings were later validated by American intelligence officials.
Ex-Microsoft CEO says he’s taken 4 percent stake in Twitter
MARLEY JAY, AP Business Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Los Angeles Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has bought a 4-percent stake in Twitter, a vote of confidence in the struggling messaging company.
That makes Ballmer one of Twitter’s largest shareholders.
A Twitter account that identified itself as Ballmer’s said Friday morning that he bought stock in Twitter in the last few months. Seth Burton, a representative for the Clippers, confirmed that Ballmer had made the investment.
The high-profile investment comes as Twitter is trying to win more users and turn a profit. This month, its co-founder Jack Dorsey returned as its permanent CEO. Then the company announced that it would lay off up to 8 percent of its workforce and unveiled a new feature, “Moments.” Those packages of commentary, video and photos about major events are an attempt to make Twitter more accessible and broaden its appeal.
The company’s shares lost about half their value between late April and late August as investors worried about Twitter’s disappointing financial performance and slowing user growth. The nine-year-old company has never reported an annual profit.
The stock has recovered some of those losses as the broader markets rose in October, and is up $1.51, or 5.1 percent, to $31.22 in afternoon trading.
Ballmer also said he liked that Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and his investment company bought more shares of Twitter. The prince and his firm said this month the stake had doubled over a six-week period to more than 5 percent.
Dorsey was the San Francisco company’s CEO during its early years and became interim CEO in July, when Dick Costolo stepped down. Twitter said on Oct. 5 that he would become its permanent CEO. Ballmer tweeted that day that Twitter “is remarkable” and called Dorsey an “impressive dude.”
According to FactSet, Ballmer’s holdings would make him the third-largest individual owner of Twitter shares after company co-founder Evan Williams and bin Talal. Ballmer, who was Microsoft’s CEO for 14 years ending last year, is also the largest individual owner of Microsoft stock with a 4.2-percent stake.
Filed Under: Industry regulations