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Chinese Suspects Charged for Using ‘Spear-phishing’ to Gain Access to US Firms

Latimes.com reported on 19th May, 2014, stating that the federal indictment of five Chinese military officials for allegedly embezzling US commercial trade secrets involved "spear-phishing" and not traditional phishing.

The technique (referring to spear-phishing) is not sophisticated but according to experts of cyber security, it can be tricky. According to the website of Norton, the malware prevention and removal service, scammers know something about you like your email address, name, etc. in spear-phishing whereas in traditional phishing, scammers undertake mass mailing hoping that someone will fall victim. It also adds that the salutation on the email message may be personalized.

The indictment highlighted one instance where a Chinese officer apparently emailed around 20 US steel workers, purporting to be their (workers) enterprise's chief executive. The message was mailed just weeks prior to the launch of a study on a crucial trade dispute and it contained a link which installed malware through which the alleged Chinese conspirator gained backdoor entry to the computers of the company.

Many employees were lured and clicked the link.

As per the Federal prosecutors, the companies that were targeted by the suspects are like United Steel Corp, Allegheny Technologies Inc, Toshiba Corp unit Westinghouse Electric Co, Alcoa Inc, the U.S. subsidiaries of SolarWorld AG and a union of steel workers.

The suspects are supposed to be the member of the People's Liberation Army Unit 61398 in Shanghai, China.

Officials of Washington have been saying for years that online-espionage is a top security concern for the country and the conflict is gathering momentum.

However, China has denied the involvement of the unit in cyber-espionage and insists that their country is more a sufferer than a perpetrator of cyber attacks.

It is doubtful that Chinese officers named in the indictment will be ever tried by US courts as the Chinese government is not likely to extradicate them to US for judicial proceedings however the indictments are designed to have other effects also.

Threatpost.com published a report on 19th May, 2014 quoting Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General, as saying "This case should serve as a wake-up call to the seriousness of the ongoing cyberthreat. These criminal charges represent innovative steps to address such threat."

» SPAMfighter News - 5/28/2014

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