Chinese-sponsored hackers a huge threat

November 18, 2010

More information has surfaced implicating the Chinese government’s direct involvement in hacking activities against other world governments, especially democracies like the United States.

State-sponsored hacking seems to be viewed simply as a Cold War tool,  with many offensive possibilities in an actual war, by a number of repressive governments across the globe. North Korea has been proven to be running hacking attacks against their neighbors, especially South Korea, on a regular basis. Iran is using hacking tools to spy on its own citizens and those of its enemies. However, the most blatant government-sponsored hackers are backed by the Chinese government.

In a report released by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s (USCC), it is clear that the commission feels that there are no doubts about Chinese involvement in recent hacking attacks. In part, the report says “Recent high-profile, China-based computer exploitations continue to suggest some level of state support. Indicators include the massive scale of these exploitations and the extensive intelligence and reconnaissance components.”

The incident on which the commission bases most of its claims is one in which routing paths for a number of sites, both public and military, were redirected through Chinese servers. The sites included U.S. government and military sites, including sites for the Senate, the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Air Force, and the office of the Secretary of Defense, as well as data belonging to a number of U.S. Fortune 500 companies. This diversion of data lasted for about 18 minutes, according to a CNET story.

On another occasion, information flowing between users and YouTube, Twitter, FaceBook and other popular sites was diverted to Chinese servers that formed a part of the system that the Chinese government uses to censor the information available to Chinese citizens. During the period of this data hijacking, users in the United States and Chile were unable to reach those sites and were shown error messages that the sites did not exist.

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