Intel confirms 'sophisticated' attacks in January

Denies link to Google-China hacks, which used IE6 zero-day to breach networks and steal info

Intel was targeted by "sophisticated" attacks last month, about the same time that Google reported its network had been breached, allegedly by Chinese hackers.

In its annual report filed Monday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Intel confirmed that it had been hit in January.

"We regularly face attempts by others to gain unauthorized access through the Internet to our information technology systems by, for example, masquerading as authorized users or surreptitious introduction of software," read the 10-K filing. "These attempts, which might be the result of industrial or other espionage, or actions by hackers seeking to harm the company, its products, or end users, are sometimes successful. One recent and sophisticated incident occurred in January 2010 around the same time as the recently publicized security incident reported by Google ."

Intel did not reveal whether the attacks had accessed or stolen confidential company information, an admission that Google made last month when it broke the news that it, and other major Western corporations, had been struck with what it called "highly sophisticated and targeted" attacks.

According to online reports, including a story published by Reuters this morning, Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy denied any connection between the attacks against Google and his own firm. "The only connection is timing," Mulloy told the news service.

Only a few companies have joined Google in admitting that they were hit with attacks that relied on an exploit of a then-unpatched vulnerability in Microsoft 's Internet Explorer 6 (IE6). Adobe was one corporation that stepped forward, while Juniper Networks and Symantec said they were investigating suspicious activity on their networks; news reports at the time claimed that Yahoo , Dow Chemical and Northrop Grumman were also attacked.

Although Google has maintained that around 30 companies were hit by Chinese hackers, other researchers have countered, saying that their investigations have uncovered a much larger number of victims .

A report last week by the New York Times implicated computers at a pair of Chinese schools; those schools, however, have denied playing any part in the attacks.

Intel did not reply to a request for comment on the attacks.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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