AUSTRALIA: Crouching Tiger, Hacking Panda

AMBER VERNETTI WRITES– In preparation for the 2014 Group of 20 (G20) Summit held in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland in Australia, Chinese hackers allegedly hacked into Australian media corporations to collect information about the Summit’s possible discussion topics. This group, referred to as Deep Panda, hacks into systems with its focus on the interests of the Chinese government.

Co-founder of the U.S. computer security organization CrowdStrike, Dmitri Alperovitch explained what Deep Panda’s motives were: “[They’re looking for] questions they can expect from Australian reporters, what type of coverage, positive or negative, they can expect to see.” The group is essentially trying to understand Australia’s media atmosphere for when China’s president, Xi Jinping, arrives for the summit.

Deep Panda became popular by hacking into American think tanks for knowledge regarding the U.S.’s role in Iraq. CrowdStrike is also on the lookout for a similar Chinese hacking group, Vixen Panda, which Alperovitch claims is associated with China’s People’s Liberation Army’s security branch, the Third Department. This group is comparable to the U.S.’s National Security Agency (NSA) or Australia’s Signals Directorate and has its sights set on Australia.

CrowdStrike’s tracking systems and their legality have been questioned, despite the fact that the company includes former FBI agents and McAfee employees. The company claims they use sensors that are “deployed on Windows and Mac servers, desktops, and laptops” while performing “real-time detection and recording of all adversary activities taking place on the system.”

Deep Panda’s efforts were focused on gaining information about last weekend’s G20 Summit which discussed international economic issues and consequent problem-solving techniques. The G20 was established in 1999 and is composed of the European Union and an additional 19 nations with several guest countries.

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