China allegedly behind attack on Canadian research group

One day on from claims that Chinese hacker group 'Comment Crew' was behind the theft of confidential documents on an Israeli missile defense system, the country is also being cited for more recent attacks against a Canadian government research organisation.

China allegedly behind attack on Canadian research group
China allegedly behind attack on Canadian research group

On Tuesday, US firm Cyber Engineering Services (CES) confirmed that "Comment Crew" – also known as the "PLA Unit 61398" - had compromised the computer systems of three contractors working on the Israeli Arrows II missile interceptor between 2011 and 2012. 

The missile system, part of the £600 million Israel Iron Dome missile defence system, intercepts and destroys missiles from up to 43 miles away and has been used during the current conflict in Gaza.

But today news emerged that Chinese cyber-criminals – some of whom may be state-sponsored – have been working on compromising other targets, most notably a Canadian government research organisation which works with private industry on research and development in a bid to bring cutting-edge technologies to market.

The Canadian Treasury Board confirmed on Tuesday that the computer infrastructure of the National Research Council (NRC) had been breached by a “Chinese state-sponsored actor”.

Details on the attack itself are scarce with Canadian officials simply saying that it was a “highly-sophisticated” compromise that would take up to a year to restore its full computer infrastructure.

“We understand that this incident will affect on-going business operations and every step is being taken to minimise its impact on our clients and stakeholders,” the NRC said in a statement on its website.

Fortunately for the group, it says that there is “no evidence” of hackers compromising data in other, connected government systems but has isolated NRC computers from other government systems as a precaution.

The Chinese, though, have publicly refuted such claims with the Chinese embassy in Ottawa saying that the report is based on a “groundless allegation”.

"China-Canada relations have maintained a good momentum," said embassy spokesperson Yang Yundong. "We are ready to work together with the Canadian side to create a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyber space."

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