Chinese Cyber-Spies Infiltrate Computers in 103 Countries

Monday, March 30, 2009

A vast electronic spy network, which experts believe originated in China, has infiltrated computers in more than 100 countries and stolen documents, according to two studies just released. Canadian researchers at the Information Warfare Monitor (IWM) said the spying breached 1,295 computers, including those belonging to foreign governments and supporters of the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile since the Chinese government tried to arrest him 50 years ago.

The computer investigation by IWM began following a request from the Tibetan spiritual leader’s office to find out whether computers in the Tibetan exile network had been infiltrated. Not only were those computers targeted, IWM found, but so were systems belonging to the foreign ministries of Iran, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Barbados, Bhutan, India, South Korea, Romania, Cyprus, Malta, Thailand, Taiwan, Portugal, Germany and Pakistan.
In some cases, the cyber-spies could even turn on the camera and audio functions of an infected computer and watch and listen to what is happening inside a room.
Although evidence points to involvement by hackers in China, IWM officials said there was no conclusive proof linking the spy network with China’s government. Beijing officials have denied any involvement.
The second study, by two researchers at the University of Illinois and Cambridge University, is more direct in blaming agents of the Chinese government. This report was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Vast Spy System Loots Computers in 103 Countries (by John Markoff, New York Times)
The Snooping Dragon: Social-Malware Surveillance of the Tibetan Movement (by Shishir Nagaraja and Ross Anderson, University of Cambridge) (PDF)


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