China Cyber War Underway?

Canadian computer security experts have found more than 1,200 computers in 103 countries infected with a malicious software that allowed hackers to take over – almost completely – their victims computers. The hackers could even turn on the computer’s webcam to watch whoever was using the computer.

These were not the computers of average folks. These were computers used by high-ranking government officials and other high-profile folks. Like the Dalai Lama. The attacks were traced to China, although the researchers do not blame the Chinese government directly.

Among the affected computers were those in embassies belonging to Germany, India, Romania, and Thailand, and in the ministries of foreign affairs for Barbados, Iran and Latvia.

The researchers say the infected computers acted as a kind of illicit information-gathering network, and that they observed sensitive documents being stolen from a computer network operated by the Dalai Lama’s organization. They traced the attacks to computers located in China, but stop short of blaming the Chinese government.

A separate report by researchers at Cambridge University, also published Sunday, alleges that the Chinese government or a group working closely with it is responsible for the attack on the computer in the office of the Dalai Lama.

Media officials at China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and State Council Information Office declined requests for comment Sunday. The Chinese government has repeatedly denied past allegations that it sponsors cyber attacks.

The particularly insidious part of these attacks is that they have been spreading the malware by sending the victims what appears to be an email from someone the victim knows. The email contains a file that, when opened, infects the victim’s computer.

Looks like it’s time to begin scanning all incoming mail, even from people you think you are safe with.

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3 Responses to China Cyber War Underway?

  1. Bleepless says:

    The reason the researchers make no accusations against the Chinese government is because they work for their own governments. Those worthies prize tranquility and their Chinese profits above all else.
    This same story appears every few months. Total results? Zero every time. Wait a few months for the next identical installment.

  2. Agam says:

    Actually, those researchers don’t work for their governments. The Munk Centre for International Studies belongs to University of Toronto, Information Warfare Monitor is not government, SecDev is a security consultancy, and the specialists who did the on-site investigation in India are from Cambridge University, UK.

    And also, as far as the “they didn’t pin it on the Chinese government” thing, that’s only true for the major report on “GhostNet”. The separate report mentioned in Gaius’ quote, the investigation of Dr. Shishir Nagaraja into the spying and theft against the Tibetan exile administration, can be downloaded here: “The snooping dragon: social-malware surveillance of the Tibetan movement

    Hi Gaius! The overall report is on a file sharing site and can’t be downloaded except by registration. But it’s some new-fangled embedded document type thing, so I stuck it on the end of here. Too small to read at that size, but a full-screen toggle makes it good.

  3. Bleepless says:

    Half right, Agam — perhaps. Cambridge and the U. of Toronto certainly are government agencies. I do not know about the other two you cited, but it might be interesting to see who hires them.
    By the way, thanks for maintaining a courteous approach over an issue which sends a lot of people up the wall.

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