Coca-Cola targeted by state-backed Chinese hackers

Chinese hackers with reported state-backing have had infiltrated confidential systems with Coca-Cola, it was revealed today.

According to Bloomberg, the soft drinks giant was breached in 2009 when a malicious link was emailed to a senior executive.

Hackers sent an email to Coca-Cola's deputy president Paul Etchells containing a malicious link which installed keyloggers and other forms of malware when opened.

The digital intruders, who are thought to be linked to the Chinese government, then sought to pilfer sensitive information regarding the company's potential acquisition of the China Huiyan Juice Group, which at the time was considered the largest foreign takeover of a Chinese company. Although the deal collapsed three days after the cyber attack, the hackers were able to operate undetected for nearly a month.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said Coca-Cola did not publicly disclose the attack, even though regulators last year outlined guidelines compelling companies to disclose cyber-attacks, arguing that transparency on the issue was in the interest of investors and other stakeholders.

Although cyber-attacks of conglomerates have become increasingly common, companies have so far remained tight-lipped on such breaches for fear of reputational loss and a negative impact on share price.

"Investors have no idea what is happening today. Companies currently provide little information about material events that occur on their networks." said Jacob Olcott, a former cyber policy adviser to the US Congress told Bloomberg.

Coca-Cola spokesman Kent Landers said the company wouldn't discuss "security matters," but in a statement insisted it "manages security risks in conjunction with the appropriate security and law enforcement organizations around the world."

"Our company's security team manages security risks in conjunction with the appropriate security and law enforcement organisations around the world," he added.