Espionage: Chinese hacker group was in the network of the Dutch chip manufacturer NXP for years

Estimated read time 2 min read

Wondering what’s been happening with NXP, the Dutch chip manufacturer? Well, here’s the scoop! In a stunning revelation, it turns out that a Chinese hacker group, named ‘Chimera‘, had unfettered access to NXP’s computer network for over two years.

That’s right — from the end of 2017 until the spring of 2020, these cyber spies were lurking in the systems of one of Europe’s top chipmakers.

So, how did this all go down? These hackers, linked to China, got in through employee accounts using data from previous breaches on platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook. They then cracked the passwords with brute force to access NXP’s VPN network. Despite NXP’s dual authentication system, the hackers bypassed it by altering phone numbers. Once in, they expanded their access rights, carefully erasing their tracks, and made their way to the most secure parts of the network.

What were they after? Chip designs and other corporate secrets. They even managed to sneak out sensitive data in encrypted files through cloud storage services like Microsoft OneDrive.

But here’s the kicker: NXP1 didn’t even realize they were hacked until much later. It wasn’t until another Dutch company, Transavia (a KLM subsidiary), got hacked that the dots started to connect. Hackers accessed Transavia’s reservation systems in September 2019, which eventually led to the discovery of the breach at NXP.

Now, we know that NXP is no small fish in the tech pond. They’re a leading developer of secure Mifare chips for things like the OV-chipkaart (public transport card in the Netherlands) and secure elements for iPhones’ Apple Pay. After acquiring the American company Freescale in 2015, they became a major player in the chip industry, particularly for the automotive sector.

While NXP is under heavy fire2, the impact of this is far-reaching. Looking at the rise of digital espionage, it’s clear that no company, no matter how technologically advanced, is immune to such threats. This incident serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing cyberwarfare landscape, where companies must constantly evolve their security measures to stay one step ahead of these covert digital infiltrators.

This is what we know so far about the NXP case. It’s a wake-up call for the tech industry and a reminder of the ongoing battle in the digital realm. Stay tuned for more updates as this story develops.

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Reza Rafati

Reza Rafati, based in the Netherlands, is the founder of An industry professional providing insightful commentary on infosec, cybercrime, cyberwar, and threat intelligence, Reza dedicates his work to bolster digital defenses and promote cyber awareness.

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