Japanese defense contractors Pasco and Kobe Steel disclose security breaches

Pierluigi Paganini February 07, 2020

Japanese defense contractors Pasco and Kobe Steel have disclosed security breaches that they have suffered back in 2016 and 2018.

Pasco is Japan’s largest geospatial provider and Kobe Steel is one of the major steel manufacturers. Just last week, Japan’s Ministry of Defense announced in addition to Mitsubishi Electric and the NEC defense business division other two unnamed contractors suffered a data breach.

The Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono said during a press conference on January 31 that four defense suppliers were hacked between 2016 and 2019,

After the announcement, both Pasco and Kobe Steel disclose the incidents, while Pasco declared that it had not found any evidence that personal or business information had been stolen by attackers, Kobe confirmed that some files may have been exfiltrated.

Kobe identified unauthorized access to its network in August 2016 and in June 2017, Pasco had detected the intrusion in May 2018.

However, contrary to what Kobel declared in the official statement, the Nikkei website reports that hackers have accessed to 250 files containing data related to the Ministry of Defense and personal info.

The Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono added that there is no evidence that the attacks are related to each other.

In January, Mitsubishi Electric disclosed a security breach that might have exposed personal and confidential corporate data. According to the company, attackers did not obtain sensitive information about defense contracts.

The breach was detected almost eight months ago, on June 28, 2019, with the delay being attributed to the increased complexity of the investigation caused by the attackers deleting activity logs.

Two Japanese media outlets attributed the cyber attack to a China-linked cyber espionage group tracked as Tick (aka Bronze Butler).

The hacker group has been targeting Japanese heavy industry, manufacturing and international relations at least since 2012,

According to the experts, the group is linked to the People’s Republic of China and is focused on exfiltrating confidential data. The attackers have exploited a directory traversal and arbitrary file upload vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2019-18187, in the Trend Micro OfficeScan antivirus.

“According to people involved, Chinese hackers Tick may have been involved. According to Mitsubishi Electric, “logs (to check for leaks) have been deleted and it is not possible to confirm whether or not they actually leaked.” reported the Nikkei.

“According to the company, at least tens of PCs and servers in Japan and overseas have been found to have been compromised. The amount of unauthorized access is approximately 200 megabytes, mainly for documents.”

A few days later, the IT giant NEC confirmed that the company defense business division has suffered a security breach back in December 2016.

The Japanese firm confirmed the unauthorized access to its internal network after Japanese newspapers disclosed the security incident citing sources informed of the event.

NEC is a contractor for Japan’s defense industry and was involved in various defense projects.

Roughly 28,000 files were found by the company on one of the compromised servers, some of them containing info about defense equipment.

Experts believe that the attacks on Japanese Defense’s contractors were part of a cyber espionage campaign carried out by Chinese hackers.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Pasco and Kobe Steel, hacking)

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