Chinese, Iranian hackers escalate cyberattacks against US entities: report

Iran and China have been carrying out increasingly more aggressive cyberattacks in recent months, The New York Times reported Monday.

Dozens of U.S. entities — including banks, businesses and government agencies — have been targeted in what experts have attributed as an Iranian hacking campaign, multiple sources told the Times.

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The hostile attacks, which analysts at the National Security Agency and experts at the security firm FireEye linked back to Iran, pushed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue an emergency order last month in response, which took place during the record-long partial government shutdown, according to the report.

A spokesperson for FireEye declined to comment, and a spokesperson for DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Iranian hackers reportedly had become far less active after the Obama administration signed the landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in 2015. The new Iran-attributed cyber activity is believed to be linked to President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE's decision to pull out of the deal. 

At the same time Iran is becoming more bold in its cyber operations against the U.S., so too is China as it seeks to steal trade and military secrets through cyber means, the Times reported, citing sources that include intelligence officials, lawyers and private security researchers.

News of their growing offensive efforts, which has been largely directed at technology companies and contractors for the Pentagon, comes four years after China had scaled back its cyber espionage efforts following an agreement between then-President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping to stop cyberattacks aimed at stealing trade secrets.

After the deal, China largely slowed its cyber espionage efforts for more than a year, but the Times reports that they are now amping up their hacking efforts as Beijing seeks to gain the leading edge in developing artificial intelligence and other sophisticated technologies, as laid out in China's five-year plan.

Major companies including Boeing, General Electric Aviation and T-Mobile were targeted in the recent Chinese campaign, but it remains unclear whether the hackers were successful, the Times reported, citing a summary of an intelligence briefing read to the newspaper.

The companies declined the Times's request to discuss the threats.

Intelligence officials have also cautioned that Iran could become more aggressive in other ways.

Top leaders of the intelligence community warned in their annual worldwide threat assessment late last month that Iranian officials are threatening to begin building up the country’s nuclear capabilities if Tehran “does not gain the tangible trade and investment benefits it expected” from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Speaking on behalf of the other officials at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray Coats10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall 11 Essential reads you missed this week Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE said the intelligence community also found that Iran is not currently seeking to develop its nuclear weapons capabilities — comments that conflicted with Trump's previous claims.

The president, who bashed the nuclear agreement as “the worst deal ever” and “defective at its core,” claimed that if the deal remained in place, Iran “will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.”