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German Government Hoist on Their own Petard

It took less than a month after the restrictive German Computer Security laws came into effect for a major German Information Security embarrassment to be reported. From just one of the many news sources to carry the news about repeated system penetration at the heart of the German government is concern over what is believed to be Chinese state-sponsored espionage.

Chinese hackers are suspected of having penetrated US and UK military and sensitive government networks in the past, with Titan Rain and the first big scare about Spear Phishing being notable instances of this concern. Suspicion has also focussed on potential state backing of these and earlier attacks.

What seems to be different about this case, apart from it being discovered in May and not right after the Computer Security law came into effect (which would have been ironic) is the apparent willingness of the German government to confront China over the evidence collected and the allegations that there was some officially blessed component to the attacks.

In a similar pattern to an earlier US State Department network breach, this network penetration was apparently enabled through the use of at least one Office 0-day, when an unsuspecting employee opened an infected file that had been sent to them in a targeted attack.

While there isn't a lot that could have been done to prevent this sort of effective attack, the restrictions against German Information Security companies and researchers will help ensure that these sort of attacks are not as easy to detect in the future.

27 August 2007

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