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U.S. Government Warns People Against China-Linked Hacking Group

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Cloudhopper, cyberattacks
Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of the cybersecurity firm FireEye, gestures during a presentation about the APT33 hacking group, which his firm suspects are Iranian government-aligned hackers, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. VOA

The U.S. government warned Wednesday that a hacking group widely known as cloudhopper, which Western cybersecurity firms have linked to the Chinese government, has launched attacks on technology service providers in a campaign to steal data from their clients.

The Department of Homeland issued a technical alert for cloudhopper, which it said was engaged in cyber espionage and theft of intellectual property, after experts with two prominent U.S. cybersecurity companies warned earlier this week that Chinese hacking activity has surged amid the escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing.

Chinese authorities have repeatedly denied claims by Western cybersecurity firms that it supports hacking.

cloudhopper
Russia, North Korea and Iran are the most active in hacking financial institutions, while China is the most active in cyber espionage. Wikimedia Commons

Homeland Security

Homeland Security released the information to support U.S. companies in responding to attacks by the group, which is targeting information technology, energy, health care, communications and manufacturing firms.

“These cyber threat actors are still active and we strongly encourage our partners in government and industry to work together to defend against this threat,” DHS official Christopher Krebs said in a statement.

The reported increase in Chinese hacking follows what cybersecurity firms have described as a lull in such attacks prompted by a 2015 agreement between Chinese President Xi Jinping and former U.S. President Barrack Obama to curb cyber-enabled economic theft.

“I can tell you now unfortunately the Chinese are back,” Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer of U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, said Tuesday at a security conference in Washington.

cloudhopper
A man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture. VOA

“We’ve seen a huge pickup in activity over the past year and a half. Nowadays they are the most predominant threat actors we see threatening institutions all over this country and Western Europe,” he said.

Analysts with FireEye, another U.S. cybersecurity firm, said that some of the Chinese hacking groups it tracks have become more active in recent months.

Advice to US firms

Wednesday’s alert provided advice on how U.S. firms can prevent, identify and remediate attacks by cloudhopper, which is also known as Red Leaves and APT10.

Cloudhopper
The picture shows a warning sign for “cyber threats ahead”.

The hacking group has largely targeted firms known as managed service providers, which supply telecommunications, technology and other services to business around the globe.

Also Read: Pakistan Fears Economic Turmoil, Re-thinks ‘Silk Road’ Project with China

Managed service providers, or MSPs, are attractive targets because their networks provide routes for hackers to access sensitive systems of their many clients, said Ben Read, a senior intelligence manager with FireEye.

“We’ve seen this group route malware through an MSP network to other targets,” Read said. (VOA)

Next Story

Snake is the Most Probable Wildlife Animal Reservoir of Novel Coronavirus: Study

Snake was one of the animals being sold in Wuhan's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market before its closure.

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Snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the novel coronavirus that had caused 17 deaths in central China's Hubei Province. (Representational Image). Pixabay

A study published on Wednesday in the Journal of Medical Virology showed that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the novel coronavirus that had caused 17 deaths in central China’s Hubei Province.

Scientists from Peking University Health Science Center School of Basic Medical Sciences, the First affiliated Hospital of Guangxi University of Chinese Medicine, Ruikang Hospital Affiliated to Guangxi University of Chinese Medicine, Ningbo University’s School of Medicine, and Wuhan University of Bioengineering carried out a comprehensive analysis on the existing sequences of the newly identified coronavirus, the Xinhua news agency reported.

They used a method called “relative synonymous codon usage” (RSCU) bias to compare RNA sequences of different animal species.

Snake was one of the animals being sold in Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market before its closure. The market is believed to be related to most of the infected cases.

Snake
Snake was one of the animals being sold in Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market before its closure. The market is believed to be related to most of the infected cases. Pixabay

Results obtained from the analyses suggested that the new virus 2019-nCoV appeared to be a recombinant virus between the bat coronavirus and an origin-unknown coronavirus.

The recombination occurred within the viral spike glycoprotein, which recognizes cell surface receptor. Additionally, their findings suggested that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the 2019-nCoV based on its RSCU bias resembling snake compared to other animals.

Taken together, the research results suggested that homologous recombination within the spike glycoprotein may contribute to cross-species transmission from snake to humans.

Also Read- New Locust Swarms Threaten Agriculture in Ethiopia

Glycoprotein is a group of conjugated proteins containing small amounts of carbohydrates.

Chinese health authorities have posted the full genome of 2019-nCoV in the genetic sequence database of U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (IANS)