Intel targeted in January attack

Chip giant says it was targeted by sophisticated attack in January but that it wasn't connected to the attacks on Google and others.

Elinor Mills
Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
2 min read


Intel was targeted by a "sophisticated" attack in January, but no intellectual property was stolen and executives do not think it was linked with the attacks on Google and others that occurred around the same time, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

"We don't think it was similar" to the other attacks, Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy told CNET. "The only connection is the timing and that it was a sophisticated attack."

Intel disclosed the attack as a risk factor, under potential theft or misuse of intellectual property, in its 10-K Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Monday.

"We regularly face attempts by others to gain unauthorized access through the Internet to our information technology systems by, for example, masquerading as authorized users or surreptitious introduction of software," the filing said. "These attempts, which might be the result of industrial or other espionage, or actions by hackers seeking to harm the company, its products, or end users, are sometimes successful. One recent and sophisticated incident occurred in January 2010 around the same time as the recently publicized security incident reported by Google."

Mulloy said that "to the best of my knowledge, no intellectual property was lost." "We routinely see people attempting to hack into our network," he said. "It's one of the challenges businesses face today."

He declined to provide further details of the attack.

Intel's disclosure about the attack--an event companies regularly endure but rarely publicize--could be the start of a trend in listing hack attacks as a risk factor, just as natural disasters and terror-related incidents have been factored into business risks.

This was the first time Intel had mentioned a hack attack in its public filings, according to Mulloy.

"Risk factors are not written in stone; they change. It's very dynamic," he said. "When you write them you look at the environment around you and clearly we've seen a lot more public attention on hacking, particularly in light of the Google attack."

Intel executives thought it was "prudent to point out that we do see attacks on a regular basis and that we work hard to prevent them," he added.

It's likely there has been some exchange of information about the attacks between Intel and Google given that Intel Chief Executive Paul Otellini serves on Google's board of directors.

Google announced in January that its intellectual property had been stolen in a targeted attack in mid-December that appeared to target 20 other companies and may have originated in China. Gmail accounts of human rights activists were targeted as well, Google said. Adobe has acknowledged that it had been targeted in an attack, while Yahoo, Symantec, Northrop Grumman, Dow Chemical, and Juniper Networks were among the other targets, according to multiple sources and reports.

As a result of the attacks, Google said it would stop censoring search results in China and could end up leaving the country entirely. The search giant and Chinese officials have resumed talks after a hiatus over the Chinese New Year, according to The Wall Street Journal.