Cyber security firm FireEye hit by 'state-sponsored' attack

A group of hackers behind the Russian flag
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

US cyber security firm FireEye, which is often used by governments to fend off state-sponsored attacks, has fallen victim to a hack that is believed to be the work of Russian actors.

The company confirmed the attack on Tuesday, admitting that a "highly sophisticated state-sponsored adversary" had breached its systems and made off with advanced penetration tools.

FireEye, which has 8,800 customers, didn't name which nation was behind the attack, but said the hackers had "top-tier offensive capabilities". It added that the case had been passed on to the FBI, which in turn, forwarded it on to a team of Russian specialists.

The Bureau also confirmed the hack on Tuesday, but it didn't reveal which state was responsible. The organisation said that preliminary indications showed an "actor with a high level of sophistication consistent with a nation-state".

Whoever the culprits are, the fear is that the stolen tools will be used in other sophisticated attacks on governments and other critical organisations. FireEye said it had "incorporated" countermeasures in its products which it has shared with partners and government agencies.

"A highly sophisticated state-sponsored adversary stole FireEye Red Team tools," the firm said in a statement.

"Because we believe that an adversary possesses these tools, and we do not know whether the attacker intends to use the stolen tools themselves or publicly disclose them, FireEye is releasing hundreds of countermeasures to enable the broader security community to protect themselves against these tools."

A 'Red Team' is a unit of security professionals that have the authorisation to mimic potential attacks and exploits on their own security systems or clients. FireEye's team works on large enterprise security and provides detailed analysis and advice on how to counter and prevent attacks.

The tools taken range from simple scripts used for automating reconnaissance to entire frameworks for an attack, according to FireEye. Some of them are publicly available tools modified to evade basic security detection mechanisms, while other tools and frameworks were developed in-house for the company's Red Team.

Bobby Hellard

Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.

Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognize him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.