Growing threat of Chinese espionage becoming harder to track, experts say

This Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 photo shows the icon for TikTok taken in New York. From the perspective of teens flooding onto TikTok, the Chinese-owned online video app is a major new outlet for self-expression, one proudly home to the silly, the loud and the weird. To others, though, the service is an unnerving black box that could be sharing information with the Chinese government, facilitating espionage, or just promoting videos and songs some parents consider lewd. (G3 Box News Photo) G3 Box News

Growing threat of Chinese espionage becoming harder to track, experts say

Misty Severi

March 17, 08:46 PM March 17, 08:46 PM

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Chinese espionage is becoming more difficult for U.S. companies to track. The Asian country is shifting to targeting internet security services, researchers for Google said in a report Thursday.

The researchers said they recently discovered a new virus targeting the software security company Fortinet. Alleged Chinese hackers used a “back door” to hack the security company’s system and upload malicious code to the company’s security management tool, according to the report.


“Given how incredibly difficult they are to find, most organizations cannot identify them on their own,” Charles Carmakal, chief technology officer at the Google-owned company Mandiant, said in a statement to Axios. “It’s not uncommon for Chinese campaigns to end up as multi-year intrusions.”

The company recently discovered two new malware strains that targeted recently fixed flaws in Fortinet products. The malware aimed to access defense, government, and technology companies. By focusing on internet-facing tools, hackers can gain access to a network without having to interact with a person, which makes it more difficult to spot attacks. Previously, hackers had to add computer viruses to email files or install a bad app.

The latest report comes as the Biden administration harshly cracks down on suspected Chinese espionage and malware attacks. Earlier this week, the Committee on Foreign Investment told TikTok that the app would be banned in the United States if the app’s Chinese parent company did not sell its share of the company, citing national security and surveillance concerns.

Defense officials also reported that Chinese spy balloons have been floating through U.S. airspace recently, with one balloon getting shot down off the coast of the Carolinas last month.

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China is also perceived as the “broadest, most active, and persistent” cyber threat to the U.S., intelligence officials said last week in the 2023 worldwide threats report.

Thursday’s report is the fifth that Mandiant has issued on suspected Chinese espionage in the past two years. Other product-makers that have been affected include SonicWall, VMware, and Citrix.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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