Hackers from China have been conducting a cyberattack campaign against prominent universities in the United States in the hopes of stealing valuable information for military purposes.
The University of Hawaii, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the University of Washington are among at least 27 universities which have been targeted worldwide, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Many of the institutes that Mudcarp has fixated on have ties to US oceanographic research institutes.
Leviathan has been active since at least 2013. Proofpoint researchers say that the cyberattackers tend to focus their efforts on maritime industries, naval defense contractors, and university research institutions. However, attacks launched by the group have also been traced back to US shipbuilders in recent years.
In previous phishing schemes, Leviathan has distributed fake job applications and resumes, as well as an interesting malicious email attachment called "Torpedo recovery experiment." Microsoft Word and Excel documents used in these campaigns contained malware payloads made possible through macros.
FireEye, which tracks the group as APT40, believes the hackers are state-sponsored and operate "in support of China's naval modernization effort."
The research comes at a time when diplomatic ties between the US and China are strained. The two global giants have been embroiled in a tit-for-tat trade tariff war, a situation heightened by security concerns relating to Chinese tech firms including Huawei.
The Trump Administration is considering a ban on 5G equipment by way of an executive order. US federal agencies are already forbidden to purchase Huawei products on the grounds of security, but commercial companies -- at least, for now -- still have the freedom in which to do so.
Reports suggest that Huawei is preparing to sue the US due to the federal ban, and at the same time, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) has filed criminal charges against Huawei's financial chief, Meng Wanzhou, in relation to the alleged theft of trade secrets.
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