Yet another incident in which Chinese hackers allegedly targeted US officials has come to light. According to US intelligence officials, the 2008 presidential campaigns of John McCain and Barack Obama were targeted by hackers apparently linked to the Chinese government.
Officials believe the goal of the cyber espionage operation was to harvest internal data from both presidential campaigns, NBC reports.
“Based on everything I know, this was a case of political cyberespionage by the Chinese government against the two American political parties. They were looking for positions on China, surprises that might be rolled out by campaigns against China,” said Dennis Blair, President Obama’s director of national intelligence in 2009 and 2010.
Shortly after the incident, President Obama made some references to the cyber espionage operation, but he didn’t mention anything about the identity of the attackers.
The hackers stole a lot of information, some of which has been leveraged by China. For instance, a senior Chinese diplomat called one of McCain’s foreign policy advisers and complained about a letter in which McCain pledged his support for US-Taiwan relations.
The letter was only a draft, it wasn’t sent out, but the Chinese already knew about it.
So how did the hackers gain access?
They used clever phishing emails designed to trick campaign workers into opening a malicious attachment. The custom-built malware was not detected by security solutions so it was able to gather information from the infected computers.
President Obama is expected to discuss cyber espionage with the Chinese president during a two-day summit.
China has often denied cyber espionage accusations and called for the US to stop making such groundless allegations.
However, the US keeps publishing reports on the topic and unnamed officials keep making various accusations.
A few days ago, Kaspersky Lab revealed the existence of a massive Chinese cyber espionage operation that targeted hundreds of high-profile companies from 40 countries.