Chinese cyberespionage spies have reportedly targeted a number of Cambodian government entities, opposition party members, diplomats and even media ahead of the upcoming elections later this year.
According to a report by US cybersecurity firm FireEye, the hacks are alleged to come from TEMP.Periscope, a Chinese cyberespionage group that has been linked to a number of other attacks including US engineering and defense contractors with interest in the South China Sea, a key region heavily contested by China.
A prominent target is Monovithya Kem, daughter of a jailed Cambodian opposition party leader, who noticed a phishing email purporting to be from a human rights organization. She was in Washington at the time and the email was promptly sent to Fireeye, who traced it to one of three servers that is claimed to be controlled by Chinese hackers.
As reported by ABC News, the firm pointed fingers at the state-sponsored hacking group and accused them of targeting Cambodian nationals involved in the upcoming elections.
“We expect this activity to provide the Chinese government with widespread visibility into Cambodian elections and government operations,” stated Ben Read, senior manager of FireEye iSIGHT Intelligence’s cyber espionage team, as quoted by Bloomberg. “The compromises fit the overall MO of Chinese espionage in that they gather up all the information that they can.”
Specifically, these hackers are known for avoiding any credit card or bank account numbers and instead go for information “that’s of use to a government” he added.
The Cambodian election commission confirmed it was aware of the reports of the hacking and has since filed a legal complaint with the Cambodian government.
The alleged cyberattack makes for intriguing subplot when Asia’s longest-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen is looking at reelection later this year and is a staunch ally of Beijing. During his three-decade reign, China has become Cambodia’s single biggest donor and foreign state investor.
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