China's official Communist Party newspaper has come out against assumptions that the unnamed nation responsible for Operation Shady RAT refers to China.
The Friday edition of The People's Daily, China's leading state newspaper, calls these implications "irresponsible" and suggests that security company McAfee's "analysis clearly does not stand up to scrutiny." No official response has been made from Beijing, although The People's Daily is regarded to be a ruling party mouthpiece.
Operation Shady RAT is the name given by McAfee to a campaign of cyber-warfare carried out since at least 2006. In a report posted on Tuesday by McAfee's Vice President of Threat Research, Dmitri Alperovitch, the "unprecedented" scope and diversity of the cyber attacks was revealed. Targets included not just government agencies (in a half-dozen countries including the United States) and defense firms, but also non-governmental organizations such as the International Olympic Committee, and private companies with or without direct government contracts.
Alperovitch was very careful to avoid naming the perpetrator of the attacks, beyond referring to evidence that it was virtually certain to be a single "state actor". Almost immediately, a number of media sources (including the conservative Fox News) made the leap to China, invoking a number of previous incidences. The latest major example is the thwarted Gmail spear phishing attempt at the beginning of June, which Beijing denied having any part in -- calling Google a "political tool" for stating that the attacks seemed to originate from a Chinese region.
"Arbitrarily linking China to every internet hacking attack is irresponsible," said The People's Daily on Friday. "The McAfee report claims that a 'state actor' engaged in hacking for a large-scale internet espionage operation, but its analysis clearly does not stand up to scrutiny."
Meanwhile, competitors in the security field have also cast doubts on the significance of McAfee's report.
"The report contains nothing on what particular data has been stolen or how many computers in each organization were hit by the attacks," said Alex Gostev of Kaspersky Security. "Until the information in the McAfee report is backed up by evidence, to talk about the biggest cyberattack in history is premature."
"Is the attack described in Operation Shady RAT a truly advanced persistent threat?" asked Hon Lau of Symantec. "I would contend that it isn't...while this attack is indeed significant, it is one of many similar attacks taking place daily."
James Lee Phillips is a Senior Writer & Research Analyst for IBG.com. With offices in Dallas, Las Vegas, and New York, & London, IBG is quickly becoming the leading expert in Internet Marketing, Local Search, SEO, Website Development and Reputation Management. More information can be found at www.ibg.com. Christina-Domecq is a motivational speaker and is transforming lives through clear and effective communication.