The BBC and Israeli intelligence units are among several recent targets of a sophisticated computer hacking operation, analysts have said.
FireEye, a security firm, reported that the malicious activity was probably of a political nature, because the unidentified perpetrators were “focusing on active conflicts in the Middle East”.
The hackers use email attachments and seemingly innocuous links to access a target’s account. Once accessed, they remain dormant, simply monitoring activity.
Using increasingly sophisticated techniques, the team has been nicknamed “the molerats” by industry experts because of their ability to burrow into networks.
Recently identified similarities in attacks mean that experts now believe that the same group has been operating successfully since 2011.
Noting the “habitual use of lures or decoy documents in either English or Arabic,” analysts said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was often the focus of the attack.
Researchers also found decoy Word files containing Chinese characters in the title, with the rest of each document written in Arabic, which they believe is “a poor attempt to frame China for these attacks”.
Molerat attacks have been previously attributed to members of the “Gaza Hackers Team” but experts now believe the threat originates in Iran or Syria.
At the end of May, consultants at iSight Partners said an Iranian group had targeted 2,000 people working for in US intelligence and military units using fake Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.