FireEye, an intelligence-led company, on Thursday disclosed that cyber attacks mounted on Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, for several years already were sponsored by the governments of China and Vietnam.
Travis Reese, FireEye president, told reporters in a news briefing that the cyber attacks have tremendously affected operations of governments, private companies and even the media.
Reese said the attacks, which began in 2013, gave huge economic benefits to China and Vietnam.
Apart from economic advantage, the cyber attacks also gave huge political and business advantages in terms of understanding the whole government and trade movements of various countries, including the Philippines, according to Bryce Boland, FireEye’s chief technology officer for Asia Pacific.
He, however, refused to reveal details.
Boland said groups engaged in cyber espionage have been aggressive in carrying out their attacks in order to have better gains each year.
He cited as an example the Conference Crew, which was founded in 2016 and has since expanded its operations early this year against critics of public and private institutions in seven countries, including the Philippines, where it collected important and strategic information that it will use for the interest and advantage of China.
Boland said the Conference Crew sponsored by the Chinese government has increased its attacks on the defense and banking industries, financial services, telecommunications, consulting and media.
The Conference Crew attack on the government is “predominantly [focused]on national security and diplomacy.”
Boland also cited Vietnam’s state-sponsored APT 32, which started its cyber espionage operations in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries in 2013.
He said the group hit several governments, business firms and even a number of journalists.
APT 32’s operations continued until this year during which it raised its attacks on the Vietnamese diaspora and the Philippines, according to Boland.
What is alarming with these cyber attackers is that they continuously improve their espionage tools in carrying out their operations against their targets in order to get better and important information, he said.
Reese said this problem on cyber operations has been brought up with various governments and private institutions.
According to him, the Philippine government and business firms are very much “cooperative” with FireEye.
Reese said government officials and business leaders should be “careful in how they divulge” the information to the public so that the cyber attackers would not get vital information that they will eventually use to carry out their cyber operations on the governments, including the Philippines, and business firms.
He also cited the strategic importance of the media, which has been a big help in disclosing the cyber attackers’ dirty job.
Boland warned that the attacks would continue in the next few years.