(PresidentialInsider.com)- Over the last few years, an operation involving Chinese hackers managed to steal hundreds of gigabytes of high-tech intellectual property from about 30 multinational corporations, including defense and pharmaceutical companies.
The Boston-based security firm Cybereason released a report last week chronicling the massive theft operation nicknamed “Operation CuckooBees.”
According to Cybereason, its team stumbled across the hacking operation after it was hired to investigate cyber-intrusions targeting tech and manufacturing companies in Europe, Asia, and North America last year.
Its Nocturnus Incident Response Team uncovered what it described as an “elusive and sophisticated cyber espionage campaign” that had been operating undetected since 2019. The most likely culprit is an Advanced Persistent Threat group (APT group) known as Winnti which has been active since at least 2010.
Cybereason’s team said for Operation CuckooBees, the group employed new malware strains but also commonly used viruses to open backdoors into computer systems and quietly extract data.
In recent years, Winnti was tied to large-scale IP theft operations some of which resulted in indictments from the US Department of Justice. Based on its investigation, Cybereason concluded that dozens of other companies were also potentially affected by a large-scale IP theft operation or similar campaigns by Winnti.
But, Cybereason’s report concludes that the exact number of companies affected by Operation Cuckoobees may be hard to estimate as the attacks are complex, stealthy, and sophisticated. Among the data stolen are diagrams and specifications for fighter jets, helicopters, and missiles, as well as details for pharmaceuticals to treat diabetes, obesity, and depression.
According to Cybereason CEO Lio Div, the total dollar value of the data stolen could be measured, not in the billions, but trillions.
Div explained that Operation CuckooBees remains active and its true impact of it may not be seen for five to ten years from now when the West believes it has the upper hand on energy, defense, and pharmaceutical development only to discover that China inexplicably caught up with us.