Meet Mandiant, the company pulling the covers off alleged Chinese hackers

This week's exposing of a cybersecurity threat group linked to China's People's Liberation Army has thrust Mandiant, the source of a self-described "unprecedented report" and a video about the cyber-espionage campaign, into the security spotlight.

The company is no stranger to the public stage, weighing in frequently on headline-grabbing security incidents.

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Mandiant CEO and founder Kevin Mandia spoke last week at the congressional hearings on the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), noting that his company anonymizes any attack information that it shares with customers. Mandiant also was instrumental in helping The New York Times get to the bottom of a recent attack on the publication, reportedly from a different set of Chinese hackers.

But this week's revelation of the so-called APT1 threat -- one that China has denied responsibility for -- appears to be Mandiant's biggest coup to date.

Mandia started Alexandria, Va.-based Mandiant in 2004, to help organizations "detect, respond to, and contain computer intrusions," and finds itself especially busy investigating advanced persistent threats (APT) like the ones it has been watching come out of China. Mandia's background includes 20 years in information security, including as a computer security officer in the 7th Communications Group at the Pentagon, and later as a special agent in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), where he worked as a cybercrime investigator. Mandiant's leader has also worked for Lockheed Martin and McAfee, and written a couple of security books on incident response.

Businessweek recently reported that Mandiant has become the "go-to security firm for cyberespionage attacks," and is celebrating its generation of more than $100 million in revenue in 2012, up 76% from 2011, and largely from Fortune 100 outfits. The company sells hardware, software and services, including training. Mandiant touted its fast growth in December when it announced new and expanded offices in the United States and Ireland.

Mandiant certainly isn't press shy, posting updates frequently via its M-Unition blog and including eye-catching items in its @Mandiant Twitter feed, such as its logo making it onto the set of AMC's "The Walking Dead" TV show (as shown at right).

Not everyone is impressed with Mandiant's latest expose. Security guru Jeffrey Carr questions Mandiant's analysis, and fires off this shot: "according to Mandiant, if a company experiences an APT attack, then it is a victim of the Chinese government because in Mandiant-speak, APT equals China."

Bob Brown tracks network research in his Alpha Doggs blog and Facebook page, as well on Twitter and Google +.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

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