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CIA hackers engaged in cyber espionage in China for 11 years

US, WASHINGTON (NEWS OBSERVATORY) — Qihoo 360, a Chinese antivirus company, said CIA hackers had been invading the Chinese aircraft industry and other targets for more than a decade. An espionage campaign was discovered when malware samples were compared with samples of hacking tools from the CIA arsenal, released by WikiLeaks in 2017.

Several sectors and structures, including aviation organizations, research institutes, the oil industry, Internet companies, and government agencies, were targeted. Qihoo added that hacking aircraft targets may have been aimed at tracking “important person’s travel routes”.

Qihoo published a catalog of intercepted malware samples, as well as an analysis of their creation time, which showed that no matter who developed these tools, he did it during working hours on the east coast of the United States.

The United States, like China and other world powers, rarely comment when accused of espionage. Nevertheless, there has long been evidence published by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in the case of espionage by the United States or by American prosecutors and private security firms in the case of China that both countries periodically crack each other’s computer systems.

The allegations made by American companies against Beijing have been set out in long, comprehensive reports for many years. Recently, Chinese companies have begun to do the same with other foreign hacker groups.

Qihoo’s latest release dates could be related to the indictment of four Chinese military hackers last month for hacking Equifax, a US credit bureau, said Adam Segal, who studies China and cybersecurity at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. The expert believes that the public disclosure of CIA operations can be considered a Chinese response to Washington.

U.S. prosecutors accused Joshua Schulte, a 29-year-old programmer, of transferring the largest amount of classified information about the work of the CIA to WikiLeaks. He was charged with thirteen episodes, the maximum cumulative punishment for which is 135 years in prison.

Schulte, who previously worked for the CIA, was one of the software developers who used to crack the computers of people suspected of terrorism.

“The years of work and the millions of dollars spent on developing these tools turned into nothing,” US Assistant Attorney David Denton told a jury at a trial in New York last month, according to a transcript of his speech.

In March 2017, WikiLeaks published 9 thousand documents, called Vault 7. From them it became known that the CIA used software vulnerabilities to connect to the Android and IOS operating systems, as well as Samsung smart TVs.

Schulte denies the allegations, claiming that he is unfairly accused due to relations with colleagues.

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Article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by News Observatory staff in our US newsroom.