A group of Chinese hackers have reportedly invaded the sanctuary of a supercomputer located at the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research base in Greta Point, New Zealand.
The $12.7 million monster was apparently targeted for its immense computing power, which many Chinese hackers like to use for anything from Bitcoin mining operations to setting up botnets and their command and control servers.
While not exactly a common tactic, supercomputers make juicy targets for anyone looking to make a big impact on their mining capability without the hassle of roping in hundreds, even thousands of desktops at a time. They represent a sort of “one-stop shop” mentality, and if successful, can reap massive rewards for whoever is behind the carefully orchestrated campaign that brought the network under their control.
“We immediately isolated the supercomputer, and switched functionality to back-up facilities in Hamilton,” he said. “We are . . . confident the intruder did not get beyond the supercomputer.”
Owned by the data and statistics analytic firm NIWA, the supercomputer FitzRoy was built in 2011 to predict future weather events and warn members of the team and the government if anything severe was waiting for the island nation just over the horizon.
FitzRoy comes equipped 100 times the power of Niwa’s old supercomputer, and is equivalent to about 7000 laptops working simultaneously. The system can supply information on future severe weather, as well as greater world issues such as climate change.
The supercomputer is one of the most powerful computers in the world for use in environmental research and forecasting.
In response to the attack, CEO John Morgan made the decision to temporarily disconnect the computer from the Internet entirely until a patch could be implemented, choosing to err on the side of caution before making any major changes which might put the operation in jeopardy.
He claims that no valuable data or processing power seems to have been lost in the attack, and that engineers on the scene were able to successfully mitigate any damage that might have been done before the attackers had a chance to get their grips on the multi-million dollar machine.
This isn’t the only hacking controversy for the Chinese this week either, as just this morning the red state was informed they would not be invited to participate in the DefCon and Black Hat hacking conferences, taking place this August in Las Vegas.
Reuters notes that “Ten to 12 Chinese citizens were unexpectedly denied visas last week to attend a space and cyber conference hosted by the Space Foundation in Colorado this week,” suggesting that the US has already started taking action against China’s military hackers.
The move is purportedly an effort to “curb Chinese cyber espionage”, according to a report from Reuters. Although, even this move may not be enough to keep the information contained within the walls of Conference Hall B from leaking out, as much of what’s said during the keynotes is recorded and later sold on the dark net to hackers who weren’t able to attend, but still want to find out everything they can about the secrets contained within.