Report: Chinese hackers target Dutch-German defense company

A group of Chinese hackers for years had access to the systems of a Dutch-German defense technology company, during which time they "definitely" obtained access to technological information and "probably" also had control of the company's network, the Volkskrant reports based on sources in the intelligence community.

According to the newspaper's sources, the company involved is Rheinmetall Defence, based in Ede. The company is one of the world's largest suppliers of defense technology and security systems. Among other thing, the company produces materials for armored vehicles.

Delft based digital security company Fox-IT discovered the hack when they found unknown malicious software in the company's systems in the autumn of last year. After months of investigation, they managed to identify the hackers as Chinese based on the language settings in the malware, the targets selected ad the working method.

The Volkskrant sources stated that the hackers sent English-language emails from fake email addresses to the Ede company's employees. The emails seemed to contain news about the Dutch-German cooperation. The malware was installed once the emails were opened.

Fox-IT would not confirm the method used or the name of the company involved. The Delft company only told the newspaper that the hackers targeted German-Dutch cooperation in the industry. According to Fox-IT, the Chinese group hacked at least 24 institutions between 2012 and 2015. All the affected companies were informed.