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A Californian software company that sued the Chinese government for pirating its flagship content filtering product ended up targeted by hackers from the People’s Republic for the three years of the legal proceedings.

Santa Barbara, CA-based Solid Oak Software filed the civil lawsuit against China after discovering thousands of lines of code from its parental filtering CYBERsitter ended up used to develop the Green Dam Youth Escort, which is Chinese software intended to roll out nationally by the government.

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Twelve days after Solid Oak founder Brian Milburn went public with his plan to sue, hackers began targeting his employees with a goal of infiltrating the company, gleaning intelligence about the court case and disrupting sales as much as possible, according to a report on Bloomberg.

“It felt like they had a plan,” Milburn said. “If they could just put the company out of business, the lawsuit goes away. They didn’t need guys with guns or someone to break my kneecaps.”

Cyber Security

The attackers made initial incursions with spyware hidden in malicious email attachments and were soon able to remotely control PCs and switch on webcams to spy on individuals. They also apparently went after Solid Oak’s law firm in the hope of lifting documents which they believed may have helped in the upcoming court case.

The attackers also targeted Solid Oak’s web and email servers, frequently crashing several times a day, and the small family-run business dived into the red as customers looking to buy the software online were not able to complete their transactions thanks to some tinkering with the script that controlled payment processing, Bloomberg said.

Forensic investigators said the malware and attack toolkits they found on Solid Oak’s network and servers were unique to Chinese hackers known as the Comment group.

In the end Solid Oak survived by the skin of its teeth, with Milburn and his staff forced to share documents on webmail and Dropbox in an attempt to thwart their foes. Two months after a settlement in the case, the attacks stopped.

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