Hackers working on behalf of China’s Ministry of State Security breached the networks of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co and IBM, then used the access to hack into their clients’ computers, according to five sources familiar with the attacks.
The attacks were part of a Chinese campaign known as Cloudhopper, which the United States and Britain on Thursday said infected technology service providers in order to steal secrets from their clients.
While cybersecurity firms and government agencies have issued multiple warnings about the Cloudhopper threat since 2017, they have not disclosed the identity of technology companies whose networks were compromised.
International Business Machines Corp said it had no evidence that sensitive corporate data had been compromised. Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) said it could not comment on the Cloudhopper campaign.
Businesses and governments are increasingly looking to technology companies known as managed service providers (MSPs) to remotely manage their information technology operations, including servers, storage, networking and help-desk support.
Cloudhopper targeted MSPs to access client networks and steal corporate secrets from companies around the globe, according to a U.S. federal indictment of two Chinese nationals unsealed on Thursday. Prosecutors did not identify any of the MSPs that were breached.
Both IBM and HPE declined to comment on the specific claims made by the sources.
“IBM has been aware of the reported attacks and already has taken extensive counter-measures worldwide as part of our continuous efforts to protect the company and our clients against constantly evolving threats,” the company said in a statement. “We take responsible stewardship of client data very seriously, and have no evidence that sensitive IBM or client data has been compromised by this threat.”
HPE said in a statement that it had spun out a large managed-services business in a 2017 merger with Computer Sciences Corp that formed a new company, DXC Technology.
“The security of HPE customer data is our top priority,” HPE said. “We are unable to comment on the specific details described in the indictment, but HPE’s managed services provider business moved to DXC Technology in connection with HPE’s divestiture of its Enterprise Services business in 2017.”