Charles Sowell, a former senior adviser to the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence, who reviewed the list of names for the AP said “The programs that they appear to target and the people who work on those programs are some of the most forward-leaning, advanced technologies.”
Sowell, who was one of the hacking targets further says,”And if those programs are compromised in any way, then our competitive advantage and our defense are compromised.”
“That’s what’s really scary.”
The AP identified the defense and security targets from about 19,000 lines of email phishing data created by hackers and collected by the US-based cybersecurity company Secureworks, which calls the hackers Iron Twilight. The data is partial and extends only from March 2015 to May 2016. Of 87 scientists, engineers, managers and others, 31 agreed to be interviewed by the AP.
Most of the targets’ work was classified. Yet as many as 40 per cent of them clicked on the hackers’ phishing links, the AP analysis indicates. That was the first step in potentially opening their personal email accounts or computer files to data theft by the digital spies.
The retired Air Force major general said: “I clicked on it and instantly knew that I had been had”. Poss says he realized his mistake before entering his credentials, which would have exposed his email to the hackers.