Amid Coronavirus Cyber Attacks, a New Report Sheds Light on a Major Chinese Hacking Group

The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

While there have been reports over the last few months as the coronavirus exploded around the world of state-sponsored hackers targeting various Chinese interests, a new report out today from a cybersecurity services firm claims to have uncovered a years-long online Chinese espionage operation targeting governments across the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia.

Check Point Software Technologies detailed the operations of a known hacking group called “Naikon” in research released Thursday. The Chinese group, first written about by security researchers in 2015, slipped off the radar over the last few years, but according to the firm’s new report, has been active for much of this time. Using documents emailed to government targets, the hackers gained access to government networks, looking for confidential documents, stealing data, taking screenshots, and installing key-loggers to gather passwords. The hackers sometimes used compromised systems to host and launch further attacks.

The researchers say targeted countries include Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and Brunei. While the pattern Check Point focuses on in its new report dates back several years, the pandemic’s orgins in China seems to have touched off state-sponsored cyber attacks targeting the country’s interests. In early April, ZDNet reported that a hacking group thought to be operating out of east Asia targeted Chinese government agencies and their employees, both in China and in Chinese government buildings around the world. Reuters reported in late March that the same group, known as “DarkHotel,” are thought to have attempted to hack into the World Health Organization. Bloomberg reported that Vietnamese hackers have also targeted Chinese government officials in Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus is thought to have originated.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.