Hackers in China stole energy firm secrets, say investigators
Michael Riley - February 25, 2011
COMPUTER hackers working through internet servers in China broke into and stole proprietary information from the networks of six energy companies, including ExxonMobil, Shell and BP, investigators say.
McAfee, a cyber-security firm, reported this month that attacks had resulted in the loss of sensitive commercial information.
McAfee said the attacks, which it dubbed Night Dragon, originated ''primarily in China'' and occurred during the past three years. The list of companies hit, none of which disclosed the attacks in filings with regulators, also includes Marathon, ConocoPhillips and Baker Hughes. Chinese hackers broke into the computer network of Baker Hughes, said Gary Flaharty, spokesman for the Houston-based provider of advanced drilling technology.
In some of the cases, hackers had undetected access to company networks for more than a year, said Greg Hoglund, chief executive of HBGary, a cyber-security company. ''This is straight-up industrial espionage,'' he said.
Hackers targeted topographical maps worth ''millions of dollars'' that show locations of potential oil reserves, said Ed Skoudis, whose company, InGuardians, investigated two recent breaches of networks.
The McAfee report described the techniques used as ''unsophisticated'' and commonly used by Chinese hackers.
The thefts matched the profile of industrial espionage operations that had the backing or consent of the Chinese government, said Joel Brenner, former head of US counterintelligence. ''The Chinese are on the hunt for natural resources to fuel this massive economic leap forward.'