Nearly 30 computers of high-ranking officials in agencies involved in the MH370 investigation were hacked into, and classified information was stolen, a Malaysian cyber security agency has revealed.
The breach occurred on 9 March, the day after Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared on its way from Kuala Lampur to Beijing, though it is not clear when the officials discovered the unauthorised infiltration into the systems.
The stolen information was allegedly being transferred to a computer in China before Cyber Security Malaysia – an agency in Malaysia involved in investigations related to cyber thefts – had the transmissions blocked and the infected machines shut down.
Dubbed as the most bizarre aviation mystery of the century, the flight carrying 239 people onboard simply vanished into thin air in the wee hours of 8 March this year somewhere in the sea between Malaysia and Veitnam.
The following day, an email was reportedly sent to high-ranking officials investigating the plane's disappearance, claiming that the aircraft had been spotted somewhere.
Attached to the hacker's email, however, was a malware disguised as a PDF file. The 'executable file' that was made to look like a PDF document, then made the cyber thieves able to access all the emails, documents and sensitive information from the targets' computers.
According to the Malaysian newspaper, The Star, officials in the Department of Civil Aviation, the National Security Council and Malaysia Airlines were among those targeted by the Chinese hacker.
"We received reports from the administrators of the agencies telling us that their network was congested with email going out of their serves," Cyber Security Malaysia chief executive Dr Amirudin Abdul Wahab told the paper.
"Those email contained confidential data from the officials' computers, including the minutes of meetings and classified documents. Some of these were related to the MH370 investigation."
Calling the attack "very sophisticated," Wahab added that the malware was so well-crafted that anti-virus programmes couldn't detect it.
The official also noted that the motivation behind the cyber theft could have been the growing suspicion that Malaysia was withholding essential information related to the plane's disappearance.
No evidence or debris from Flight MH370 has been found, nor has a crash site been identified ever since the aircraft disappeared earlier this year.