Universities across the US, Canada and Southeast Asia are the latest victims in a string of cyber attacks that appear to have originated in China.

Emails intended to appear as though they emanated from partner institutions were sent to individual employees within the target universities. As employees opened the emails, they released malware, enabling hackers in China to infiltrate network systems.

Rather than going after ‘bigger fish’, like the military, hackers choose to go after educational institutions due to their potential to offer a similar quality of information, and their less comprehensive security barricades. If educational institutions want to preserve their credibility, military grade security is becoming a must.

Notably, the 27 affected institutions share an interest in oceanic research. “All of the targets had researchers working on submarine technology or related fields,” reports Radio Free Asia.

Many were connected to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and some were recipients of US Navy research contracts.

Analysts believe that they know who is behind the attacks; a Chinese agency known as Mudcarp that also goes by the names TEMP.Periscope and Leviathan. The malware hiding in the university servers retained parallels to Mudcarp’s previous deployments.

The reasons bellying the attack may range from the Chinese aspiration to build out the Belt and Roads Initiative -a government project intended to expand trade routes- to the desire to build better submarine vessels.

No matter the reason for the attacks, the take-aways are that employee education, vigilance and robust threat prevention systems are not only pillars of organizational stability, but can also represent matters of national security.

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