World’s Largest Cyber Crime Uncovered

A cyber-attack on

a level never before seen and stretching back over five years has been

uncovered, and among the 72 targets were the United Nations, the United States

government and the International Olympic Committee.

Security experts

McAfee discovered the breaches back in March and yesterday published a 14-page

report detailing the extent of the world’s largest cyber-attack. McAfee

believes there was one “state actor” behind the attacks but declined to name

it. However one other security expert briefed on the cyber-attacks said the

evidence pointed to China.

The list of

72 victims – all of whom have been informed – of the five year campaign reads like a who’s who of international

governments and organisations. It includes the governments of the

United States, Taiwan, India, South Korea, Vietnam and Canada; the United

Nations; the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); the International

Olympic Committee (IOC); the World Anti-Doping Agency; and an array of

companies, from defense contractors to high-tech enterprises.

Cyber attack United Nations

In the case of

the United Nations, the hackers broke into
the computer system of its

secretariat in Geneva in 2008, hid there for nearly two years, and quietly

combed through reams of secret data, according to McAfee.

“Even we were surprised by the enormous diversity of

the victim organisations and were taken aback by the audacity of the

perpetrators,” McAfee’s vice president of threat research, Dmitri

Alperovitch said.

What those who perpetrated this attack are doing with the

information they have garnered is unknown, however if only a fraction of the

commercially sensitive information is put to use, it could mean a “massive

economic threat” according to McAfee.

The cyber-attack has been dubbed Operation Shady RAT by

McAfee who discovered the breaches in March, when its researchers discovered

logs of the attacks while reviewing the contents of a “command and

control” server that they had discovered in 2009 as part of an

investigation into security breaches at defense companies. The RAT in the name

stands for Remote Access Tool, used by hackers to remotely access a computer

from afar.

While the attacks by Anonymous and LulzSec have recently

garnered lots of column inches in the mainstream media, this attack could potentially

be far more damaging economically and politically.