Everything You Need to Know about APT1

By John King, CISSP, PMP, CISM •  Updated: 01/01/23 •  3 min read

APT1, also known as the Comment Crew or the Shanghai Group, is a Chinese state-sponsored hacking group that has been active since 2006. The group is likely responsible for many cyber attacks against many targets, including government agencies, military organizations, defense contractors, and major corporations worldwide.


APT1 is notable for its advanced tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), which have allowed it to evade detection and maintain a persistent presence on victim networks. The group has been known to use various tools and techniques, including custom malware, spearphishing campaigns, and waterhole attacks, to compromise its targets

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One of the most well-known campaigns attributed to APT1 was the Operation Aurora attacks, which targeted some high-profile companies in the United States, including Google, Adobe, and Rackspace. The group was also responsible for the theft of intellectual property from several U.S. defense contractors, including RSA, the security division of EMC.


APT1 has also been linked to several other significant cyber espionage campaigns, including the Night Dragon attacks against energy companies in the U.S. and Europe, and the GhostNet campaign, which targeted Tibetan independence groups and the Dalai Lama.


Despite the attention that APT1 has received in the media, more is needed to know about the group’s structure and organization. It is believed to be based in Shanghai and to operate under the direction of the Chinese government, although this has not been definitively confirmed. Some experts have suggested that the group may be part of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In contrast, others have pointed to the possible involvement of other government agencies or contractors.


The U.S. government has taken a number of steps to counter the threat posed by APT1 and other state-sponsored hacking groups. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted five members of the group for their involvement in cyber espionage activities, marking the first time that the U.S. had brought criminal charges against state-sponsored hackers. The U.S. has also imposed economic sanctions on Chinese individuals and companies believed to be involved in cyber espionage and has engaged in diplomatic efforts to address the issue with the Chinese government.


Despite these efforts, APT1 and other state-sponsored hacking groups have continued to be active, and the threat they pose to U.S. and global cyber security remains significant. In response, companies and organizations worldwide have implemented various measures to protect themselves against these types of attacks, including stronger passwords, two-factor authentication, and better cybersecurity awareness training for employees.


Overall, APT1 is a formidable and persistent threat in the cyber security landscape and likely to continue to evolve and adapt as it seeks to achieve its objectives. It is vital for companies and organizations to be vigilant in defending against these types of attacks and to stay up-to-date on the latest TTPs and countermeasures.

John King, CISSP, PMP, CISM

John King currently works in the greater Los Angeles area as a ISSO (Information Systems Security Officer). John has a passion for learning and developing his cyber security skills through education, hands on work, and studying for IT certifications.