Computers of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) in Cologne have been under an ongoing several month long cyber-attack.
According to German newspaper Der Spiegel, unknown attackers infected the agency’s computers with Trojan horses and other viruses designed to steal information.
It was suggested the hackers, who are believed to be based abroad, might be associated with some state-funded espionage agency.
The DLR was said to have alerted Germany’s National Cyber-Defence Centre after several of its research and system administration computers had been found infected with malicious software.
Der Spiegel said the malware used in the attack was designed in order to automatically destroy itself once detected. In some computers the IT specialists were only able to find indirect evidence of the viruses, which had reportedly affected all operating systems used by the space agency. The attack was said to be well prepared, coordinated and systematic.
Some evidence suggests the attack might have been launched from China as forensic IT experts have identified repeated Chinese characters and recurrent typing errors in the code of the Trojans
“It could possibly be only a simple camouflage,” said an unnamed source to Der Spiegel, hinting it was not possible to exclude western espionage agencies such as the NSA had been involved in the attack.
Germany’s government considers the matter as extremely serious as the DLR develops advanced technology used in defence, communications, aviation safety and space applications.