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72 global organisations hit by world's 'biggest ever cyber-attacks'

The UN, US and Canadian governments are among six dozen high-profile targets of the largest ever hacking attack.

The International Olympic Committee was one of six-dozen organisations compromised by 'Operation Shady RAT', which ran between 2006 and 2011.
The International Olympic Committee was one of six-dozen organisations compromised by 'Operation Shady RAT', which ran between 2006 and 2011.
Image: PA Wire/PA Archive

SECURITY COMPANY MCAFEE has uncovered what it believes to be the largest ever series of cyber attacks – with victims including the United Nations, the government of the US, and dozens of the world’s biggest companies.

The massive five-year operation, dubbed ‘Operation Shady RAT’, successfully infiltrated 72 targets – and McAfee believes that the sheer scale of the attack means it must have been engineered by a single “state actor”.

Among the other governments attacked were those of Canada, India, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam and Canada. Reuters said other victims included the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The scheme was so elaborate that it began five years ago, attacking a small number of targets in 2006, with the intensity of the attacks increased when its creators grew more confident of its success.

“The key to these intrusions is that the adversary is motivated by a massive hunger for secrets and intellectual property,” McAfee’s vice-president of threat research, Dmitri Alperovitch, wrote in his full report.

ZDNet summarised the findings by saying that 49 of the affected targets were American or US-based, but that the inclusion of 13 Asian targets pointed to a likely Asian origin, which many suspect to be China.

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It also noted an ominous word of warning from Alperovitch, who concluded:

The only organisations that are exempt from this threat are those that don’t have anything valuable or interesting worth stealing.

Read McAfee’s 14-page report in full (PDF) >

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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