Documents reveal Chinese hacking operations and surveillance targets

Documents reveal Chinese hacking operations and surveillance targets

A private security contractor linked to China’s top policing agency and other parts of its government has accidentally exposed hundreds of documents online, revealing its hacking activities and surveillance targets. The documents, which were discovered by a U.S. cybersecurity firm, offer a rare glimpse into the state-backed cyberespionage and domestic monitoring that China conducts.


The interior of I-soon office

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The contractor, known as I-Soon or Anxun in Mandarin, is based in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. According to the documents, it has been hired by various Chinese government agencies, including the Ministry of Public Security, to hack into the networks of foreign and domestic entities, such as universities, media outlets, human rights groups, dissidents, and religious minorities.

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The documents show that I-Soon used a variety of techniques and tools to infiltrate and compromise its targets, such as phishing emails, malware, fake websites, and social media accounts. Some of the documents also contain screenshots, passwords, and personal information of the victims, as well as reports and invoices for the hacking services.


The main entrance door to the I-Soon office

The documents were leaked online in late 2020, when a server used by I-Soon was misconfigured and left open to the public. The U.S. cybersecurity firm Mandiant, which is part of FireEye, discovered the leak and notified the Chinese authorities, who quickly took down the server. However, Mandiant was able to download and analyze some of the documents before they were removed.
Mandiant said that the leak provides valuable insights into the operations and objectives of Chinese hackers, who are often difficult to track and attribute. The leak also raises questions about the role and oversight of private contractors in China’s cyberwarfare and surveillance activities, and the potential risks and consequences of such data breaches.

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