Hackers crack telecom networks across multiple continents to track a handful of targets

You might be popular, but are you Chinese hacker following your every move, no matter where you go popular?

No? It's cool. Not many people are.

According to cybersecurity firm Cybereason, Softcell, is digital attack and surveillance operation being run by a Chinese hacker group, most likely working their keyboards for the Chinese government. The focus of the operation: keeping track of around 20 high-profile targets that Chinese intelligent officials aren't all that crazy about.

From IntelNews:

The operation is thought to have compromised close to a dozen major global telecommunications carriers in four continents — the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa. According to Cybereason, the hackers launched persistent multi-wave attacks on their targets, which gave them "complete takeover" of the networks. However, they did not appear to be interested in financial gain, but instead focused their attention on the call detail records (CDRs) of just 20 network users. With the help of the CDRs, the hackers were able to track their targets' movements around the world and map their contacts based on their telephone activity. According to The Wall Street Journal, which reported on Cybereason's findings, the 20 targets consisted of senior business executives and government officials. Others were Chinese dissidents, military leaders, as well as law enforcement and intelligence officials.

What makes this even more impressive is that, as Operation Softcell's targets bopped around the globe, switching cellular carriers as they traveled, the hackers were able to crack the target's new wireless carriers to continue surveillance.

While tracking folks through their cellphones isn't anything new, the focus on so few people in such detail and over multiple continents and networks, is. Maybe it's been done before… but no one's talking about it.

Image via Unsplash courtesy of Taskin Ashiq