An advanced group of cyber criminals that may be backed by the Chinese state has targeted governments and companies in India and Southeast Asia since 2004, a major online security company reported Monday.
FireEye intelligence experts said "APT 30" was a hacking squad with one of the world's longest track records of cyber espionage. They said they believed the group was "state-sponsored—most likely by China," based on the use of Chinese terms in malware and the targets chosen, which aligned with Beijing's political and military concerns.
"APT30 predominantly targets entities that may satisfy governmental intelligence collection requirements," said FireEye in the report, highlighting that the "vast majority" of victims were in Southeast Asia.
"Much of their social engineering efforts suggest the group is particularly interested in regional political, military, and economic issues, disputed territories, and media organizations and journalists who report on topics pertaining to China and the government's legitimacy," it added.
FireEye said it had analyzed over 200 malware samples and found that the group had managed to overcome "air-gapped networks"—when a computer network is physically isolated from unsecure networks to ensure highly-sensitive information remains safe.
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China has previously been accused of cyber espionage, including by the U.S. government.
In 2014, the U.S. Justice Department filed criminal charges against hackers in the Chinese military, who it said had targeted American companies such as Alcoa.