Overseas hackers nab more than 1TB of data daily

A new report shows that the recent wave of cyberattacks on the U.S. are coming from a highly sophisticated group of hackers that are most likely state-sponsored.

Dara Kerr
Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
2 min read

The idea of governments waging futuristic cyberbattles and online espionage campaigns actually isn't too farfetched. A new study released today by Team Cymru basically says as much.

The study, shared exclusively with The Verge, says that overseas hackers are stealing as much as one terabyte of data per day from governments, businesses, militaries, and academic facilities. Apparently, the hackers are using a network of 500 computer servers.

According to a lengthy article by The Verge, Team Cymru concludes that the hackers are so sophisticated and are running such massive campaigns that they must be state-sponsored. "This is Internet theft on an industrial level," Team Cymru director Steve Santorelli told The Verge. However, it remains unclear which government, or governments, might be behind the attacks.

Various security experts have been pointing the blame at the Chinese government for the recent slew of cyberattacks on U.S. soil. A report by Mandiant released last week linked China's People's Liberation Army to a large number of cyberattacks against U.S. corporations, government agencies, and other organizations. However, the Chinese government has flatly denied that it is involved in cyber-espionage or hacking.

The Mandiant study came on the heels of reports that dozens of companies and news sources' computer networks were breached illegally. Facebook and Apple claimed hackers got into their system through a Java plug-in. While The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal alleged that the Chinese government accessed their networks to spy on journalists writing about China.

Bloomberg reported last week that some of the attacks -- especially those on businesses -- may have been coming from cybercriminals based in Eastern Europe. Other reports say that Iran's government has been involved in the past.

Whether the attacks are coming from China, Iran, or Eastern Europe, they have caught the attention of the U.S. government. Several lawmakers have been pushing for cybersecurity legislation. The head of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced last month that she believes a "cyber 9/11" could happen "imminently." If such an event were to occur, she said, it could cripple the country and take down the power grid, water infrastructure, transportation systems, and financial networks.

"We shouldn't wait until there is a 9/11 in the cyber world," Napolitano said at the time. "There are things we can and should be doing right now that, if not prevent, would mitigate the extent of damage."