Tag Archives: Operation Aurora

China Unicom Postpones Launch of Android Mobile Phones in China

Google’s battle with the Chinese Government has claimed its first casualty – Google branded mobile phones. China Unicom has infinitely delayed the launch of all Android powered mobile phones, which were scheduled to be launched this week.

The row started when Google threatened to quit China due to sophisticated hacking attempts originating out of China. Google is currently in talks with the Chinese government and is yet to make a final call on China. However, it is evident that until Google manages to reach a settlement with the Government several Google products are going to suffer.

Samsung-Saturn

The delayed devices are Samsung GT-i6500U and Motorola XT701. What prompted China Unicom to postpone the launch isn’t clear. They initially cited Google’s threat to quit China as the main reason, but later blamed bugs for the delay. Although, Google’s threat to quit China doesn’t directly affect Android phones manufactured by 3rd party vendors like Motorola and Samsung, it is the most likely cause for the delay. In fact, MobileOpportunity believes that the Chinese Government is using China Unicom to pressure Google and make it appear vulnerable. Whatever be the real reason, the device manufacturers will most definitely not be pleased. China is a critical market with massive growth opportunities. The delay is a setback for Motorola and Samsung and would also affect Google’s reputation.

[Image Courtesy: Edlimagno]

Internet Explorer Vulnerability Causes Downloads of Firefox and Opera to Surge in Germany

One of the many vectors used by the Chinese hackers in the infamous Google Hack Attack was a previously unknown vulnerability in Internet Explorer. This prompted the BSI (German Federal Office for Security in Information Technology) to advise against using Internet Explorer till a patch is released. Latest data from major alternate browser manufacturers suggest that German users are indeed paying heed to their Government’s advice.

The advisory resulted in a significant increase in the number of downloads of Firefox as well as Opera. While Opera didn’t divulge the exact figures, Choose Opera reported that the number of Opera downloads in Germany during doubled over the weekend.

On the other hand, Firefox experienced 300,000 downloads during the recent Friday-Monday period. The red area in the graph denotes the incremental impact, i.e. the number of downloads above and beyond what is expected.

Firefox-Downloads-Increase-in-Germany
Firefox Downloads

The exploit in question affects all versions of Internet Explorer since IE 6 and can be seen in action over here. Microsoft is expected to release a patch later today to fix the vulnerability.

India’s National Security Adviser Alleges That China Tried to Hack Indian Government’s Computers

China-Tried-To-Hack-IndiaEarlier this week, Google revealed that it was the target of a highly sophisticated cyber-attack originating from China. Now, India has joined the ever expanding list of affected parties.

M. K. Narayanan – India’s National Security Adviser (NSA), has alleged that his office and other government departments were targeted on December 15. The attackers attempted to infiltrate by deploying PDF files infected with a Trojan. It is not known if it’s the same Trojan (Hydraq), which is believed to have been used in the Google Hack Attack. It is also not clear at the moment if this attack is indeed a part of Operation Aurora. However, circumstantial evidence strongly suggests the possibility. Google was also attacked in mid-December and Trojans were one of the vectors utilized by the hackers.

India’s NSA indicated that the Chinese government may be involved and said that, “People seem to be fairly sure it was the Chinese. It is difficult to find the exact source but this is the main suspicion. It seems well founded.” Although, Google didn’t directly blame the Chinese government, many experts suspected that an attack of this nature isn’t possible without government backing. The Chinese government has officially denied any role in the hacking attempts, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman stating that, “Hacking in whatever form is prohibited by law in China”.

Were Google Employees Involved in the Google Hack Attack (Operation Aurora)?

Google-Hack-Attack Google’s threat to quit China and the accompanying revelations managed to send shock waves through the intertubes. In fact its after effects are still being felt. We tried to make sense of whatever little we know about the attack in one of our earlier articles. Check it out if you wish to get caught up on what has been happening.

Reuters is claiming that the attackers were aided from the inside. According to its sources, one or more Google China employees colluded with the attackers. Local media has been reporting that, Google China employees were denied access to internal networks after January 13th, while several staff members were transferred or put on leave.

Google is still in the process of scanning its internal networks and has refused to comment. “We’re not commenting on rumor and speculation. This is an ongoing investigation, and we simply cannot comment on the details,” is the official response.

As we mentioned in our previous article, one thing which we can be certain about is that, we would continue to hear about Operation Aurora in the days to come. McAfee has already dubbed the Google Hack Attack as “a watershed moment in cyber security”. Google is already communicating with the Chinese government and the US government has also officially requested an explanation. Stay tuned to Techie Buzz to get the latest updates on the story.

Google Hack Attack (Operation Aurora): What We Know

Google-Hack-Attack-Operation-AuroraYou must have heard by now that Google was the target of a “highly sophisticated” attack originating out of China. Details about the hack attack, which has been dubbed by McAfee as Operation Aurora, have been trickling in since Google’s explosive revelation. Here is what we know so far.

The Targets

Google was not the only target. At least, 20 companies were targeted in this hack attack including, Yahoo, Adobe Systems, Juniper Networks and Rackspace Hosting.

The Goal

One of the primary objectives was to gain access to the Google accounts of human rights activists. It is also probable that Yahoo was targeted for the same reason.

The Vehicle

The attacks are notable for their complexity and sophistication. The hackers used multiple levels of encryption and took unprecedented precautions to avoid detection. An unknown exploit in Internet Explorer was utilised by the hackers to gain control of target systems. The exploit affects all versions of Internet Explorer since IE 6 and can be exploited on Windows 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, Server 2008, Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. You can see the exploit in action over here. Microsoft has published a security advisory and is working on a patch. In the meantime, it is recommended that you do not use Internet Explorer.

Internet Explorer was not the only vector used by the hackers. Vulnerabilities in Adobe’s Reader and Acrobat were also among the weaknesses utilised by Operation Aurora.

What’s Next?

The sophistication of the attack has led some researchers to conclude that the Chinese Government was behind the attacks. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department spokesman has stated that the US Government will formally ask China for an explanation. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already informally asked for an explanation.

We will be hearing a lot more about Operation Aurora in the days to come. One thing which is certain is that the issue won’t die quietly.