Chinese computer-hacking accusations

8 Feb

China has been accused over the last 8 years of attacking US companies and governmental facilities with the aim of illegally acquiring information in order to bolster its political, economic and military position. 72 organisations have claimed to be victims or such attacks since 2006 and numerous stories have emerged recently of the infiltration of media computer networks that resemble supposed Chinese computer hackings of US military institutions. However computer hacking in China is illegal and China claims to also be the victim of such attacks; despite this, accusations have been made by US businessmen and government officials alike who blame Chinese involvement due to the targets of such computer attacks, which includes information on Chinese nationals suspected of political dissidence and Chinese government officials.

Reports from the US have accused the Chinese government of orchestrating hacking into the New York Times and Wall Street Journal (31/1/13). The allegation first came to light when the New York Times was reported to have been hacked in relation to an article published on October 25th about China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, and his family and their accumulative fortune, estimated to be around $2.7 billion (£1.7 billion). The attacks are said to have started in September which targeted emails from a US reporter. Although the Chinese government has denied any responsibility, internet security firm Mandiant, hired by the NYT to investigate its computer security network, has found that the attack “matches the subterfuge used in many other attacks that Mandiant has tracked to China”. However there is no conclusive evidence implicating the Chinese government in these attacks and the Chinese government denies any involvement.

These attacks are not the only ones which are said to have been the result of Chinese computer hackers; Google boss Schmidt plans to release a new book in April which brands China “the world’s most active and enthusiastic filterer of information”. It argues that China backs cyber-crime in order to achieve political and economic gain.

Furthermore, these claims are not limited to the world of media; the US military have claimed that Chinese hackers stole plans for the F-35 and F-22 stealth fighter planes, a program which cost the US military $1 trillion. The Chinese J-20 and J-31 are said to be based on these designs which were acquired through computer hacking programs orchestrated by the Chinese government. In addition, US security companies claim to be bombarded daily by attacks which seek to gain access to important informational material.

As warfare and intelligence gathering moves further into the 21st century and China continues to grow as a world power, can these attacks be seen as part of China’s growing subversive power and an attempt to further escalate its position in the world? With the lack of substantial evidence and complete Chinese denial, it is difficult to assess the validity of these claims; however with no guilty party found and growing suspicion in the US, this could be a divisive issue separating the world’s two largest powers as we see a transition in the superpower status of both countries in the near future.

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/31/technology/chinese-hackers-infiltrate-new-york-times-computers.html?hp&_r=1&

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/26/business/global/family-of-wen-jiabao-holds-a-hidden-fortune-in-china.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-21271849

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21307212

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/chinese-hackers-stole-plans-americas-new-joint-strike-fighter-plane-says-investigations

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3 Responses to “Chinese computer-hacking accusations”

  1. db7g09 February 12, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    I remember hearing on the BBC TV show QI that the Los Alamos National Laboratory where they developed the first nuclear bomb, were being hacked one million times an hour using thousands of Chinese computers.

    On the other hand, it is interesting to hear China’s response to the ongoing ‘cyber war’ between the US and China.

    China has responded to the news of the hacking at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal by saying that it’s actually the United States that’s doing all the hacking. In a Xinhua report that was subsequently picked up by numerous Chinese state media outlets, the National Computer Network Emergency Response Coordination Center of China (CNCERT/CC) claims that the United States is the number one perpetrator of hacks against China. From the China Daily:

    “In 2012, according to CNCERT, 73,286 overseas IPs were involved in hacking China’s 14.19 million IPs, among which 10.5 million received attacks from US-based servers [and there were] up to 7,370 US-based IPs (about 22.9% of all attacking IPs) [that] controlled 10,037 websites in China.”

    The China Daily article also says the foreign press has been “hyping” the New York Times hacking story, and that “China has become the biggest victim of Internet hacking,” a dubious assertion that it does not offer any evidence for. Even so, in this day and age, perhaps both this story and the New York Times one are a bit like reporting that the sky is blue. Everyone, it seems, is hacking everyone else all the time.

    But if China is seriously threatened by overseas hacking, it ought to do more to train regular people about how to protect their data online. It ought to permit — nay, encourage — the use of security enhancing VPNs. And it ought to be keeping a much closer eye on China’s web security industry, which is a little out of control.

    Source: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-02/07/content_16213475.htm

    • Zoe Skousbo February 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      Computer hacking is a now commonplace method of covert intelligence gathering utilised by an unknown number of governments across the world. It is often reported by US media that China is the most aggressive in this manner of virtual espionage, infiltrating various sectors of the US business and intelligence community for economic gain. Chinese authorities repeatedly express their innocence in such publically reported attacks and lay claim that they themselves are the victims in the on-going virtual war for information. Some media outlets are even declaring that the US is loosing the battle for control of the cyber battlefield.

      Such warfare is hard or nigh impossible to monitor effectively, largely due to the scale that it is thought to occur at. Furthermore some companies and institutions may be reluctant to report incidences of hacking. A US administration official sums up the situation- “The question is, how do they respond when they are asked about it? Is it in their interest to work with other companies and with the government to alleviate some of the problem?”

      Hacking it seems, is simply a by-product of the digital age. Even governments who are seen as close allies, such as Fance and the US, are accusing each other of hacking violations. If hacking is to be stopped, then governments need to closely monitor and assert control over online hacking activities and communities. Furthermore, claims of innocence on the Chinese part are looking increasingly redundant as suspicion grows that Chinese hackers are taking orders from Chinese intelligence services or military based.

      Sources:

      http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-02-10/world/37026024_1_cyber-espionage-national-counterintelligence-executive-trade-secrets
      http://intelnews.org/2012/11/22/01-1138/
      http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2013/02/america-losing-war-against-chinas-hacker-spies/62135/

    • db7g09 March 15, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

      I remember hearing on the BBC TV show ‘QI’ that the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, USA, where they developed the first nuclear bomb, was being hacked one million times an hour using thousands of Chinese computers. I found this astonishing, but I am interested to look at this issue from China’s perspective. On the other hand, it is interesting to hear China’s response to the ongoing ‘cyber war’ between the US and China.

      China has responded to the news of the hacking at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal by saying that it’s actually the United States that’s doing all the hacking. In a Xinhua report that was subsequently picked up by numerous Chinese state media outlets, the National Computer Network Emergency Response Coordination Center of China (CNCERT/CC) claims that the United States is the number one perpetrator of hacks against China.

      From the China Daily: “In 2012, according to CNCERT, 73,286 overseas IPs were involved in hacking China’s 14.19 million IPs, among which 10.5 million received attacks from US-based servers [and there were] up to 7,370 US-based IPs (about 22.9% of all attacking IPs) [that] controlled 10,037 websites in China.”

      The China Daily article also says the foreign press has been “hyping” the New York Times hacking story, and that “China has become the biggest victim of Internet hacking,” a dubious assertion that it does not offer any evidence for. Even so, in this day and age, perhaps both this story and the New York Times one are a bit like reporting that the sky is blue. Everyone, it seems, is hacking everyone else all the time.

      But if China is seriously threatened by overseas hacking, it ought to do more to train regular people about how to protect their data online. It ought to permit — nay, encourage — the use of security enhancing VPNs. And it ought to be keeping a much closer eye on China’s web security industry, which is a little out of control.

      Sources:

      BBC ‘QI’ clip on China’s hacking the Los Alamos National Laboratory – Available at
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=204Cu_1XksI – from 5:00 onwards.

      ‘China threatened by overseas hackers’ – 2 July 2012 – http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-02/07/content_16213475.htm [accessed 11 February 2013].

      Kenneth, Rapoza, ‘Rise In U.S. Hacker Attacks Against China’ – 14 November 2012 – http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2012/10/14/rise-in-u-s-hacker-attacks-against-china/ [accessed 11 February 2013].

      David, Sanger, ‘Chinese Army Unit Is Seen as Tied to Hacking Against U.S.’ – 18 November 2012 – http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/technology/chinas-army-is-seen-as-tied-to-hacking-against-us.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 [accessed 11 February].

      CBS News, ‘Wall Street Journal: Chinese hacked us, too’ – 31 January 2013 – http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-205_162-57567010/wall-street-journal-chinese-hacked-us-too/ [accessed 12 February 2013].

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