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China-linked hacking group operated inside targeted computer networks for years

FPI / May 17, 2022


A hacking group with ties to the communist government in China operated undetected for years and stole billions of dollars worth of intellectual property and other data from U.S. and other companies worldwide, a cybersecurity firm discovered.

The firm, Cybereason, disclosed details of the sophisticated Chinese hacking group it labeled “Winnti” in a report made public on May 4.

“Winnti is one of the most industrious groups operating on behalf of Chinese state-aligned interests,”  the report said.

“This group has existed since at least 2010 and is believed to be operating on behalf of Chinese state interests and specializes in cyberespionage and intellectual property theft,” the report said.

The hackers penetrated corporate computer networks and maintained a clandestine presence inside those networks until being discovered in 2021 according to a report by security correspondent Bill Gertz for the Washington Times.

The hackers operated undetected since 2019 and targeted sensitive proprietary information from technology and manufacturing companies in North America, East Asia and Western Europe.

Lior Div, Cybereason’s chief executive, said the most alarming findings of the report deal with the sophisticated evasion techniques developed to operate undetected inside the hacked companies’ networks.

Among the stolen information from the companies — which were not identified in the report — were sensitive documents, blueprints, diagrams, formulas and manufacturing-related proprietary data. Research and development documents and source code also were taken.

“With years to surreptitiously conduct reconnaissance and identify valuable data, it is estimated that the group managed to exfiltrate hundreds of gigabytes of information,” the report said. “In addition, the attackers collected information that could be used for future cyberattacks, such as details about the target company’s business units, network architecture, user accounts and credentials, employee emails and customer data.”

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