Security Experts:

TeamViewer Confirms It Was Hacked in 2016

Remote control and support solutions provider TeamViewer has confirmed that hackers likely operating out of China breached its systems back in 2016, but the company decided not to disclose the incident at the time as it found no evidence that it affected customers.

German news magazine Der Spiegel revealed on Friday that TeamViewer was targeted in 2016 in an attack that involved a piece of malware named Winnti, which is known to have been used by several threat actors linked to the Chinese government.

The Winnti malware was also reportedly involved in a recent attack targeting German chemicals giant Bayer.

Contacted by SecurityWeek, Germany-based TeamViewer confirmed detecting a cyberattack in the fall of 2016, but the company said it had neutralized the attack before any major damage was caused.

“An expert team of internal and external cyber security researchers, working together closely with the responsible authorities, successfully fended off the attack and with all available means of IT forensics found no evidence that customer data or other sensitive information had been stolen, that customer computer systems had been infected or that the TeamViewer source code had been manipulated, stolen or misused in any other way,” TeamViewer said in an emailed statement.

A company spokesperson confirmed that strong evidence was found to support the theory that a China-linked group had been behind the attack, but said it could not be 100% certain.

The spokesperson also clarified that the cyberattack was not in any way related to the 2016 incident that led many to believe the company’s systems had been breached. At the time, many users reported that their computers were accessed by hackers through TeamViewer, but the company blamed the incidents on password reuse.

As for the decision to not disclose the breach, TeamViewer highlighted that the attack targeted its IT infrastructure and not its users.

“Independent experts conducted a thorough investigation using all IT forensic resources available and found no evidence that the security of our users or their IT systems was affected in any way,” the spokesperson said. “Together with the relevant authorities and our security advisors, we came to the joint conclusion that informing our users was not necessary and would have been counterproductive to the effective prosecution of the attackers. Against this backdrop, we decided not to disclose the incident publicly in the interest of the global fight against cybercrime and thus also in the interest of our users.”

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.