Chinese hackers behind OPM megabreach also pwned United Airlines

Possibility of Beijing-sponsored triple hack makes industry sit-up, gulp, take notice

United Airlines was hacked by same Chinese group that also breached health insurer Anthem and the US government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Hackers stole flight manifests from United Airlines in May or early June, exposing the names of people on many different flights in the process, after earlier making off with up to 21.5 million Social Security Numbers from the OPM heist. Bloomberg broke news of the possible link on Wednesday in a story citing unnamed officials and individuals familiar with the investigation.

United declined to comment on the breach investigation. Zhu Haiquan, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, issued a blanket denial that China engages in hacking. “The Chinese government and the personnel in its institutions never engage in any form of cyberattack. We firmly oppose and combat any forms of cyberattacks,” he said.

The report of links between the three high-profile attacks is light on details (most notably the tactics and techniques used to breach systems), but the implications run deep. Some independent experts even characterise the linked hacks as a potential game-changer in online espionage.

Ken Westin, senior security analyst at Tripwire, said that the run of attacks seems to show that state-sponsored hackers are upping the ante and going after a range of related targets in one fell swoop.

“If the evidence does reveal nexus points and attribution to a group, particularly a nation state, it would also reveal the disturbing motivation of the attackers,” Westin commented. “Instead of a campaign to breach a single entity, the goal was to compromise multiple disparate sets of data for the purposes of correlation. This correlation would allow the actors to develop targeted profiles of individuals in the United States, particularly those with security clearances, leading to one of the most devastating intelligence compromises we have seen to date.”

“Identifying individuals with security clearances and linking that data to travel information is one example of how the combination of this type of data can be exponentially more damaging than individual data sets alone,” he added. ®

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Running Windows 10? Microsoft is preparing to fire up the update engines

    Winter Windows Is Coming

    It's coming. Microsoft is preparing to start shoveling the latest version of Windows 10 down the throats of refuseniks still clinging to older incarnations.

    The Windows Update team gave the heads-up through its Twitter orifice last week. Windows 10 2004 was already on its last gasp, have had support terminated in December. 20H2, on the other hand, should be good to go until May this year.

    Continue reading
  • Throw away your Ethernet cables* because MediaTek says Wi-Fi 7 will replace them

    *Don't do this

    MediaTek claims to have given the world's first live demo of Wi-Fi 7, and said that the upcoming wireless technology will be able to challenge wired Ethernet for high-bandwidth applications, once available.

    The fabless Taiwanese chip firm said it is currently showcasing two Wi-Fi 7 demos to key customers and industry collaborators, in order to demonstrate the technology's super-fast speeds and low latency transmission.

    Based on the IEEE 802.11be standard, the draft version of which was published last year, Wi-Fi 7 is expected to provide speeds several times faster than Wi-Fi 6 kit, offering connections of at least 30Gbps and possibly up to 40Gbps.

    Continue reading
  • Windows box won't boot? SystemRescue 9 may help

    An ISO image you can burn or drop onto a USB key

    The latest version of an old friend of the jobbing support bod has delivered a new kernel to help with fixing Microsoft's finest.

    It used to be called the System Rescue CD, but who uses CDs any more? Enter SystemRescue, an ISO image that you can burn, or just drop onto your Ventoy USB key, and which may help you to fix a borked Windows box. Or a borked Linux box, come to that.

    SystemRescue 9 includes Linux kernel 5.15 and a minimal Xfce 4.16 desktop (which isn't loaded by default). There is a modest selection of GUI tools: Firefox, VNC and RDP clients and servers, and various connectivity tools – SSH, FTP, IRC. There's also some security-related stuff such as Yubikey setup, KeePass, token management, and so on. The main course is a bunch of the usual Linux tools for partitioning, formatting, copying, and imaging disks. You can check SMART status, mount LVM volumes, rsync files, and other handy stuff.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022