Australian company devastated by Chinese hacking, IP theft

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Australian company devastated by Chinese hacking, IP theft
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Corporate raiders

China's infiltration of private online business has returned to the spotlight this month after United States officials blamed Chinese hackers for compromising the records of up to four million current and former government employees.

China has called the US comments irresponsible, while President Barack Obama vowed that the USA would aggressively bolster its cyber defences.

Behind these public state-level spats, many companies are fighting a quieter battle where the front keeps changing.

FireEye said it uncovered a hacking campaign in June by a China-based group it calls APT3, targeting organisations in the aerospace and defense, construction and engineering, high tech, telecommunications and transportation industries.

FireEye says APT3 engages in "phishing", a technique of sending company employees innocuous emails containing website addresses which trick them into downloading programs that automatically lead to protected information. It says APT3 is especially sophisticated because it constantly changes online identities, making it difficult to track.

Codan is ramping up its defences. The Adelaide-based company is introducing encrypted products, employs three or four people to work full-time on preventing hacking-led counterfeiting and has an Australian lawyer whose sole role is to coordinate those efforts.

"I don't think you could ever presume it's behind you, but now we're in a position to understand what's happened," McGurk said. "It's like playing Whack-A-Mole. They just pop up somewhere else."

(Additional reporting by Jeremy Wagstaff in SINGAPORE; Editing by Rachel Armstrong)

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