Hackers for sale: What we’ve learned from China’s massive cyber leak

Feb23,2024



BEIJING: A massive data leak from Chinese cyber security firm i-Sun has offered a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Beijing-linked hackers.
i-Soon has not yet confirmed whether the leak is genuine and has not responded to AFP's request for comment.
As of Friday, the leaked data had been removed from online software repositories GitHubWhere it was posted.
Analysts say this leak is a treasure trove intel In the day-to-day operations of China's hacking program, which the FBI says is the largest of any country.
From employee complaints about pay and office gossip to claims of hacking foreign governments, here are some of the key insights from the leak:
Every day, I-Sun's crews were targeting big fish.
The leaks revealed that websites or email servers of government agencies in China's neighbors including Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Cambodia, Mongolia and Vietnam were affected.
There is a long list of targets, from British government departments to Thai ministries.
In the leaked chats, I-Sun staff also claimed that they had gained access to telecom service providers in Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Thailand and Malaysia, among other countries.
He described the Indian government, Beijing's geopolitical rival, as a prime target for “infiltration”.
And they claimed to gain back-end access to higher education institutions in Hong Kong and self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as part of its territory.
But they also acknowledged that they had lost access to some of their data seized from government agencies in Myanmar and South Korea.
Other targets are domestic, from China's northwestern region of Xinjiang to Tibet, and from illegal pornography to gambling dens.
Judging from the leaks, most of I-Sun's clients were provincial or local police departments – as well as province-level state security agencies responsible for protecting the Communist Party from perceived threats to its rule.
The firm also offered customers help in protecting their devices from hacking and keeping their communications secure – many of their contracts are listed as “non-confidential”.
There were references to official corruption: in one chat, salesmen discussed selling the company's products to the police – and planned to bribe those involved in the sales.
There was also reference to a customer in Xinjiang, where Beijing has been accused of serious human rights abuses.
But workers complained about the challenges of doing business in the stressed region.
“Everyone thinks of Xinjiang as a nice big cake… but we've suffered a lot there,” said one.
In their chats, i-Soon employees told colleagues that their main focus was to create “Trojan horses” – malware disguised as legitimate software that allows hackers access to private data – and to exploit databases of personal information. to construct.
“At the moment, Trojan horses are mainly adapted for Beijing's state security department,” one said.
It also details how the firm's hackers can remotely access and take over a person's computer, allowing them to execute commands and monitor what they type, known as keylogging. is referred to as.
Other services included ways to break into Apple's iPhone and other smartphone operating systems, as well as custom hardware – including a powerbank that could extract data from a device and send it to hackers.
In a screenshot of the conversation, someone describes a customer's request for special access to “the Office of the Secretary of State.” foreign MinistryASEAN Office, Prime Minister's Office National Intelligence Agency” and other government departments of an unknown country.
One service being offered is a tool that allows customers to break into accounts on the social media platform Claims.
They also have a technology to bypass two-step authentication – a common login technology that provides an extra level of security to the account.
This leak paints a less-than-flattering picture of the day-to-day activities at a mid-level Chinese cybersecurity firm.
The chats are filled with complaints about office politics, lack of basic technical expertise, poor pay and management, and the challenges the company faces in securing customers.
Other screenshots show an argument between an employee and a supervisor over pay.
And in another leaked chat, an employee complained to a coworker that their boss recently bought a car worth more than one million yuan ($139,000) in exchange for giving his team a raise.
“Does the boss dream of becoming emperor?”



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