US company accused Chinese hackers of targeting Australia's government and Malaysia's Petronas
US company accused Chinese hackers of targeting Australia's government and Malaysia's Petronas

USA: The latest accusation of coordinated cyberespionage by the Asian giant to further its geopolitical objectives is that Chinese hackers likely targeted energy companies operating in the South China Sea and the Australian government.
According to a report released on Tuesday by Proofpoint Inc., researchers have discovered an ongoing phishing campaign that has lasted for more than a year and has targeted projects like the Kasawari gas field and a wind farm in the Taiwan Strait. Petroliam Nasional Bhd., which manages the gas project in Malaysian waters, declined to comment on the research study. To protect its operations and assets, Petronas did state that it adheres to best practises.

Proofpoint stated that it had "moderate confidence" that TA423, a group based in China and operating for espionage, was responsible for the hacking.

Long-standing accusations from the US government and cybersecurity firms are that China has sizable hacking operations. Christopher Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, warned Western businesses in July that China wants to "ransack" their intellectual property in order to eventually control key industries. According to him, it ran a hacking programme with "lavish resources that was bigger than that of every other major country combined."

China frequently refutes these allegations, claiming that it is a target of cyberattacks and disputing the US's claim to be the "empire of hacking." A request for comment on Tuesday wasn't immediately answered by the Beijing Foreign Ministry.

Infuriating Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, China asserts ownership of more than four fifths of the South China Sea. The US estimates that more than 30% of the world's maritime crude oil trade passes through the body of water, which is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

According to Proofpoint, emails used in the phishing campaign against the Australian government pretended to be from media outlets like The Australian and Herald Sun in order to spread the malware ScanBox. Assisting Proofpoint with its research, PwC Threat Intelligence "assesses it is highly likely that ScanBox is shared privately amongst multiple China-based threat actors," according to its report.
An inquiry for comments was not immediately answered by Australian News Corp. representatives.
A ScanBox campaign that ran from April to June allegedly targeted both local and federal Australian government agencies. According to the report, a previous phishing campaign targeted a European manufacturer of heavy equipment for a wind farm in the Taiwan Strait.

In countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Australia, TA423's "focus on naval issues is likely to remain a constant priority," according to Sherrod DeGrippo, vice president of threat research and detection at Proofpoint.

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