China-linked hacker group has gone quiet, but DHS expects resurgence

A hacking group behind a widespread cyber espionage campaign against IT service providers has gone quiet since two of its members were indicted but remains an active threat to American businesses.

An advanced persistent threat group linked to the Chinese government accused of conducting a widespread cyber espionage campaign against IT service providers has gone quiet since two of its members were indicted by the Department of Justice last year, according to a Department of Homeland Security official, but it remains an active threat to American businesses.

The group, known as APT 10, has a history of targeting the U.S. technology supply chain. In recent years, it has begun focusing attention on compromising managed service and cloud providers who often remotely manage IT systems and store data on behalf of client companies and -- when compromised -- can offer hackers wider access to the networks of multiple businesses.

Rex Booth, chief of cyber threat analysis at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said at a DHS webinar held Feb. 6, the campaign against IT service providers started in 2014 and continued through 2018. The campaign is part of a larger strategic shift by APT10 in recent years from "labor intensive, one-off compromises of individual targets" to "force multiplier effects that enable them to compromise multiple targets through a single attack."

Booth said that APT 10 has gone quiet recently following last year's indictments, but DHS is confident "they haven't gone away."

Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at Crowdstrike, told FCW last year that is not uncommon for APT groups to temporarily go underground after being publicly outed in order to change tools and tactics so they can evade similar means of detection in the future.

Former White House Cybersecurity Coordinator and National Security Agency Senior Advisor Rob Joyce said on the information security podcast Risky Business this month that threats to U.S. managed service providers from Chinese hackers remain "a real and present commercial threat."

U.S. officials say the primary targets from the campaign were companies who support commercial activities that align with priorities listed in China's 2025 plan to become a global leader in emerging technologies. The technological focus of affected companies listed in the December 2018 indictment, including satellites, aviation, telecommunications, industrial factory automation, biotechnology, mining and others, "reads like a shopping list from China's strategic plans," Booth said.

The group uses a few unique tools to attack providers but mostly relies on common attack vectors like spearphishing and theft of login credentials, especially for users with elevated access.

DHS officials are worried that the attacks will only become more common as companies continue to migrate to the cloud and outsource IT services to third-parties. On the call, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Christopher Krebs said many businesses and customers have shifted toward using more cloud and IT service providers in recent years and that "this type of activity has the potential to be used much more widely to affect millions more internet users around the world."

The Trump administration and federal agencies have increasingly ratcheted up pressure on the Chinese government in recent years, with a particular focus on curbing alleged economic, espionage of American businesses and technologies. Last month the Department of Justice indicted Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei for committing intellectual property theft and fraud against American businesses.

Intelligence and law enforcement agencies are also making a concerted push to discourage businesses and countries around the world from doing business with Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei and other Chinese companies when building out their 5G networks. CISA leadership has indicated that communicating the threat posed by China to the technology supply chain and 5G will be one of the top priorities for the agency this year, according to a DHS source familiar with internal deliberations.

NEXT STORY: Red team hackers crack MHS Genesis

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.