According to CrowdStrike, a group of hackers affiliated with China is accessing call records worldwide


B.and Joseph Menn

SAN FRANCISCO, October 19 (Reuters)A group of hackers suspected of being linked to China penetrated cellular networks around the world and used special tools to intercept call recordings and text messages from telecommunications providers, a US cybersecurity company said on Tuesday.

CrowdStrike said the group called LightBasin had been in business since at least 2016, but more recently has been discovered to be using tools that are some of the most advanced discovered to date.

Telecommunications companies have long been a prime target for nation states with attack or attempt from China, Russia, Iran, and others. The United States is also seeking access to call records that show which numbers have called each other, how often, and for how long.

Adam Meyers, senior vice president of CrowdStrike, said his company gathered the information by responding to incidents in several countries that he refused to mention. The company released technical details on Tuesday so other companies can look for similar attacks.

Meyers said the programs could unobtrusively retrieve certain data. “I’ve never seen so many specially designed tools,” he told Reuters.

Meyers said his team did not accuse the Chinese government of leading the hacking group’s attacks. But he said the attacks had ties to China, including cryptography, which is based on pinyin phonetic versions of Chinese characters, as well as techniques mirroring previous attacks by the Chinese government.

The Chinese embassy in Washington did not respond to questions from Reuters.

Asked for comment, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said it was aware of the CrowdStrike report and would continue to work closely with U.S. carriers.

“This report reflects the persistent cybersecurity risks for businesses large and small and the need to take concerted action,” an official said through a spokesman.

“Common sense steps include implementing multi-factor authentication, patching, software updates, deploying threat detection capabilities, and maintaining an incident response plan.”

The results highlight the vulnerability of critical networks that are the backbone of communications and help explain the increasing demand for strong end-to-end encryption that the networks – and anyone with access to those networks – fail to decrypt can.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn; editing by Richard Pullin)

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