Secrets of Shell and Rolls-Royce come under attack from China's spies

Secrets of Shell and Rolls-Royce come under attack from China's spies
Secrets of Shell and Rolls-Royce come under attack from China's spies 

By James Rossiter
The Times
December 3, 2007

Rolls-Royce and Royal Dutch Shell have fallen victim to Chinese 
espionage attacks, The Times has learnt.

Sustained spying assaults on Britains largest engineering company and on 
the worlds second-biggest oil multinational occurred earlier this year 
as part of a campaign to obtain confidential commercial information, 
sources said.

News of the attacks on Rolls-Royce and Shell comes after a warning by 
Britains security services that China is sponsoring espionage against 
vital parts of the British economy, including breaking into big 
companies computer systems.

It is understood that Chinese-backed computer hackers broke into the 
internal computer network of Rolls-Royce in an attack that a security 
source said nearly took them out. Rolls-Royce engines are widely used by 
many of the worlds largest airlines and are deployed in transport 
vehicles of many Armed Forces in Nato, including those of Britain and 
the United States.

Shell, an Anglo-Dutch group, had to deal with a spying ring in Houston, 
Texas, security sources told The Times. Chinese nationals working for 
the company were preyed upon by state-backed operatives hoping to obtain 
confidential pricing information for its operations in Africa, the 
sources said.

African countries have been targeted by international oil companies in 
the commercial battle to tap into vast new oil reserves needed to 
support both the developed economies of the West and the rapidly 
expanding economy of China, which has vast coal reserves but little oil 
and gas.

The infiltration of the Rolls-Royce computer server was described as a 
virtual attack, a source said: The Chinese the Peoples Liberation Army
- have been up to it for a good while, but it has really come to the 
fore recently. They tried to get inside Rolls-Royce their IT systems.

Jonathan Evans, Director-General of MI5, has sent a letter to 300 chief 
executives and security chiefs in banks and accounting and legal firms 
telling them that they are under attack from Chinese state 
organisations, The Times revealed this weekend.

A summary of the MI5 warning, posted on the website of the Centre for 
the Protection of the National Infrastructure, says: The contents of the 
letter highlight the following: the Director-Generals concerns about the 
possible damage to UK business resulting from electronic attack 
sponsored by Chinese state organisations, and the fact that the attacks 
are designed to defeat best-practice IT security systems. It is 
understood that Rolls, in common with most other networks, has several 
layers of firewalls, with the most confidential information, thought to 
contain engine designs and repair codes, at the centre.

The infiltration of the Rolls network is thought to have occurred 
remotely after a specially tailored Trojan, a software code wrapped up 
in a virus, was downloaded into the site, allowing information to be 
relayed back out of the companys IT server.

It is thought that the infiltration occurred in the UK. Rollss IT 
network extends, however, to its international operations, including 
Scandanavia and the United States.

The source said: They did not get enough inside, but it was a 
sufficiently big attack to get very worried. They got to the so-called 
not very important information before being rooted out.

Shell is understood to have uncovered a special interest group in 
Houston consisting of its Chinese nationals, who were encouraged to meet 
socially after work. The networking group was, however, a front for 
recruiting Chinese nationals. In what security experts described as a 
typical form of social engineering, there was targeting of Chinese 
workers whose families were still in China. They were told to help for 
the good of the Motherland, the source said, adding: It was a form of 
threat. This particular European oil company was made aware and 
uncovered the spying operation, where the Chinese were put under moral 
pressure to give information. Rolls-Royce and Shell declined to comment.

Garrod Haggerty, forensic technology partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers, 
the accounting firm, said that any companys IT network infrastructure 
should be robust, protected by firewalls and multi-layers of security to 
make it difficult to launch an all-out attack on a network.

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