A Government-backed Hacker Group Hacked at Least 13 Victims in 2021

A US-backed hacker group has targeted at least 13 organizations across the world, including Taiwan, India, Vietnam and China .

The news comes from a group of Security researchers, who published an advisory detailing NSA’s Tailored Access Operations from the beginning of 2021 to the present day.

“For the first time, we were able to identify the group’s working hours in 2021, which are similar to US regular office business hours,” researchers said.

The TAO unit is a hacking group aiming to exploit hardware and software to gather intelligence on supposedly foreign entities. This is facilitated by gaining access to telecommunication companies that operate the backbone of the Internet and capturing Internet traffic, as well as intercepting physical devices and inserting monitoring capabilities onto them. Since its inception in 1998, the group has grown to be one of the most important parts of the NSA.The TAO unit was designed to extend previous capabilities for monitoring radio communications to general monitoring of a broad array of networked systems. Since a potential target could be using practically any technology, the TAO unit likely targets network equipment because of the limited number of devices to attack and the broad access it could offer.

“Our efforts have resulted in about 80 proactive notifications to private and government organizations worldwide regarding TAO attacks against their infrastructures so that the organizations could take the necessary steps to protect themselves or search for traces of compromise in their networks,” read the advisory.

In terms of the industries targeted by the attacks, researchers mentioned the public sector, manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, hospitality and education, as well as the media and aviation.

“We will continue to explore the methods, tools and tactics used by one of the oldest and still dangerous groups, TAO,” researchers said.

The advisory comes months after security researchers revealed US-backed hackers  compromised at least six government networks between May 2021 and February 2022.



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