WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Chinese hackers have stolen confidential data on American foreign policy by breaking into the computer systems of national security think tanks, reports CNet.

Cybersecurity researchers at CrowdStrike say the attacks come from Deep Panda, a sophisticated group of hackers believed to be backed by the Chinese government.

The hackers broke into the accounts of Middle East experts who advise the U.S. government on foreign policy in that dangerous region.

Deep Panda was able to exploit weaknesses in Windows software to gain access to emails, directories and other files. Its operatives can piggyback on electronic conversations to glean sensitive information about the advice experts are giving; they can then read responses from government officials, say the experts.

“This is undoubtedly related to the recent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) takeover of major parts of Iraq and the potential disruption for major Chinese oil interests in that country,” says a statement on the CrowdStrike website.

“Deep Panda presents a very serious threat not just to think tanks, but also multinational financial institutions, law firms, defense contractors, and government agencies,” the security researchers added.

CrowdStrike experts has been monitoring Deep Panda for three years. Previously the Chinese hackers had been going after information relating to foreign policy in Southeast Asia.

The Chinese government denies any connection with Deep Panda.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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