Chinese hackers increasingly attracted to the drone technology

Pierluigi Paganini September 25, 2013

Intelligence agencies reveal that Chinese hackers increasingly attracted to the drone technology while Chinese drone industry grows like never before!

The fact that Chinese hackers are most persistent collectors for sensitive information is not a mystery, more difficult to demonstrate the direct involvement of the PLA behind the operations of computer experts that systematically seek to unravel the secrets of Western companies and government organizations.

The technology that seems to be most attractive for Chinese hackers is the one used for the design of sophisticated US military drone. A Taiwan Defense Ministry report stated that as of mid-2011 the Chinese Air Force had availability of more than 280 drones and that the overall Chinese militia have thousands of UAVs.

“The military significance of China’s move into unmanned systems is alarming,” said a 2012 report by the Defense Science Board.

Threat intelligence company FireEye, that already revealed numerous APT, tracked for almost two years a group of hackers based in Shangai that has undermined principal defense contractor to steal the precious information.

“I believe this is the largest campaign we’ve seen that has been focused on drone technology,” “It seems to align pretty well with the focus of the Chinese government to build up their own drone technology capabilities.”

The group of Chinese hackers, named “Comment Crew” is an old acquaintance for security experts, many intelligence analysts recognized in how they operate the involvement Chinese cyber units. The Mandiant Intelligence firm collected evidences that link the group of Chinese hackers to the government of Beijing and in particular to the popular Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army.

FireEye security company months ago detailed a cyber espionage campaign, dubbed OpBeeBus, that targeted drone manufactures. The company tracked back the attackers thanks the analysis of addresses for C&C and tools used in the attacks, the principal evidence against Chinese hackers is similarities with past attacks linked to Beijing, the reuse of the command and control infrastructure (C&C) connected to APT attack on RSA’s SecurID token system occurred in 2011.

chinese hackers opBeebus

According FireEye specialists, Chinese Hackers  targeted both large companies, including US military contractors, and medium/small firms  focused on drone technology.

China’s growth in the last decade has no equal, the need to proceed at the same pace the technological evolution is an obligation and cyber espionage is still one of the main methods used to gain industry secrets, in particular for the military and aerospace sectors. Agencies and American companies, but also Japanese ones, are victims of constant attacks with the intent of acquiring their intellectual property by deception.

The Chinese government is investing a great effort for the development of drone program, principal Chinese manufactures are conducting a research for production of a new generation of drones. According military analysts the drone models appeared recently are quite identical to the ones produced by foreign manufacturers, the circumstance could be the results of intense cyber espionage conducted over the year.

China has acquired foreign drone technology and specializes in its reverse engineering, Chinese focused on US models as confirmed by Mr. Xu:

“American U.A.V. technology is very sophisticated,” “We can only envy their technology. Right now, we’re learning from them.”

Drones are considered an essential weapon in the modern military arsenal, they could be used for reconnaissance or to strike a target.

China had deployed a surveillance drone, a  BZK-005, over the East China for the first time on September 9th, in the area around the Diaoyu Islands, and Chinese drones are increasingly appearing in the fleets of other nations. The most interesting example is the Wing Loong, or Pterodactyl, the Chinese version of the popular Predator sold to foreign states since 2011.

Chinese hackers wingLoong

Chinese drones seem to have the same performance of the American ones, of course they are much cheaper … The drone market could be the first victim of Chinese espionage.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  Operation BeeBus, Chinese hackers, Drone)

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