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Security Firm Uncovers International Cyber Siege

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Major companies and organizations have been under a sustained international cyber attack for several years, according to a report released Wednesday by McAfee.

Investigators for the security firm say the intruders have been in operation for five years and targeted sensitive data from U.S. military, corporate, and other systems.

The cyber spying investigation dubbed "Operation Shady Rat" uncovered a number of groups under siege from the hacking effort, including the United Nations, natural gas companies, a Florida real estate company, the government of Taiwan, and International Olympic Committee.

McAfee officials say 49 of the 72 organizations affected by the cyber attack were based in the U.S.

“We’re facing a massive transfer of wealth in the form of intellectual property that is unprecedented in history,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, McAfee’s vice president of threat research. “Even we were surprised by the enormous diversity of the victim organizations and were taken aback by the audacity of the perpetrators.”

Alperovitch also stirred speculation as to who might be responsible for the attack in saying McAfee believes one "state actor" was behind the intrusion because, "there is likely no commercial benefit to be earned from such hacks." Vanity Fair, which broke a story on the cyber siege, reports security experts the magazine consulted all pointed fingers at China.

McAfee says it became aware of the breach of security in March and released the 14-page report after working with the targeted organizations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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