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U.S. warns of new hacking spree from group linked to China

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© REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo FILE PHOTO: Photo illustration shows USB device being plugged into a laptop computer in Berlin

By Christopher Bing, Reuters

"These cyber threat actors are still active and we strongly encourage our partners in government and industry to work together to defend against this threat," DHS official Christopher Krebs said in a statement.

The reported increase in Chinese hacking follows what cybersecurity firms have described as a lull in such attacks prompted by a 2015 agreement between Chinese President Xi Jinping and former U.S. President Barrack Obama to curb cyber-enabled economic theft.

“I can tell you now unfortunately the Chinese are back," Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer of U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, said Tuesday at a security conference in Washington, D.C.

"We’ve seen a huge pickup in activity over the past year and a half. Nowadays they are the most predominant threat actors we see threatening institutions all over this country and western Europe,” he said.

Analysts with FireEye, another U.S. cybersecurity firm, said that some of the Chinese hacking groups it tracks have become more active in recent months.

Wednesday's alert provided advice on how U.S. firms can prevent, identify and remediate attacks by cloudhopper, which is also known as Red Leaves and APT10.

The hacking group has largely targeted firms known as managed service providers, which supply telecommunications, technology and other services to business around the globe. Managed service providers, or MSPs, are attractive targets because their networks provide routes for hackers to access sensitive systems of their many clients, said Ben Read, a senior intelligence manager with FireEye.

"We've seen this group route malware through an MSP network to other targets," Read said.

(Reporting by Christopher Bing in Washington; Editing by Jim Finkle and Lisa Shumaker)

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