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More Links Found Between China and Anthem Hack

March 2, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
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A cybersecurity firm in Virginia has connected the massive hack of health insurer Anthem to Chinese government-sponsored researchers, according to a report from the Washington Post.

The Washington Post reported in early February that the hack of Anthem, which affected 80 million people, was suspected to be the work of Chinese data thefts. According to its most recent report, malicious software used in the Anthem hack conclusively matches malware that was used to target a small U.S. defense contractor and that the FBI has said originated in China, said Rich Barger, chief intelligence officer of ThreatConnect, the cybersecurity firm. The company's report comes as FBI officials say they are close to determining who was behind the Anthem intrusion.

"The malware is so unique—the digital signature is so precise—in these two incidents that we strongly feel the same Chinese actors were involved," Barger said. He added that the links do not reveal who exactly carried out the Anthem hack but point to involvement of Chinese government-sponsored entities.

The other attack Barger was referring to was on the Reston, Va.-based defense contractor VAE. That incident took place last year, though the breach was not successful. Barger said the hackers made a mistake in their attempt on the firm. They used the same computer server to try to break into VAE's networks and to host a hacking competition sponsored jointly by a university research center and a defense contractor—both with ties to Chinese military and intelligence agencies, he said.

To date, China has denied having any involvement in the Anthem attack. In a previous interview, Chris Van Pelt, principal in the healthcare IT practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory LLC, told HCI that healthcare organizations may find themselves in the crosshairs of foreign governments and other crime syndicates looking to gain intellectual property. This is what happened with Community Health and now reportedly Anthem has been victimized too.

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