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Report: China-linked group hacked 10 international cellphone providers

A Chinese espionage group appears to have hacked 10 international cellphone providers to track calling data on 20 dissidents, military officials, spies and law enforcement agents, according to a report from the cybersecurity firm Cybereason reported on in the Wall Street Journal.

Why it matters: Though we don't have any details on who the victims are or exactly why they were targeted, China could potentially use tracked phone records to tell if a highly placed individual was another country's intelligence asset or follow the movements of an activist.

Details: The campaign, which Cybereason has dubbed "Operation Soft Cell," did not appear to have targeted any U.S. carriers.

  • Cybereason believes this to be the work of a group known as APT10 due to the hackers following that group's playbook and using the same tools as the group has in the past.
  • While APT10 — also known as Cloud Hopper — had an overwhelming amount of access to carrier networks, the goal appears to have been to steal data.

Context: Cybereason became aware of the campaign in 2018, when it helped a carrier fend off multiple waves of hacking from the group.

  • China is no stranger to monitoring communications providers to harvest details on individuals it sees as a risk. In 2010, the country is believed to have hacked Google to monitor the activity of human rights activists on the platform.

Go deeper: Cracking a Chinese spy case