Feeds

China rubbishes cyber-espionage claims

Spooky Ghostnet revives malware spying accusations

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

China has been accused of using malware to spy against the Tibetan government-in-exile and the private office of the Dalai Lama, as well as numerous foreign embassies.

The study, entitled Tracking GhostNet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network, alleges the Chinese government may be running a cyber espionage network of 1,295 compromised computers in 103 different countries. The Information Warfare Monitor project alleges that many of the infected computers belong to foreign ministries and embassies, including the Indian embassy in Washington. The report was compiled by researchers from the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto and Ottawa-based think tank SecDev Group.

The report comes after Shishir Nagaraja from the Toronto team worked with experts at the Cambridge University to check, at the request of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, whether on not machines in the Tibetan exile network had been compromised. The researchers found the machine had been hacked before uncovering evidence of a far wider cyber-espionage network, targeted at Asian countries in China's neighbourhood. Hacked systems were also unearthed in the embassies of countries including Romania, Cyprus and Germany.

China, via the China Daily, quotes military and security analysts in denying the reports, claiming that they are an attempt to paint China as a threat and are in any case "exaggerated".

The Infowar site is currently hard to access but a mirror of the paper can be found on the F-secure website here. F-Secure notes that the reported targeted attacks came in the form of booby-trapped email, cleverly disguised to appear genuine. The poisoned .doc and .xcl files attached to these emails used various vulnerabilities to install Trojans, such as Poison Ivy or Gh0st Rat.

Reports of this type of targeted Trojan attack go back at least five years. China has regularly been blamed by Western governments for this sort of thing in the past, so the Infowar's research simply adds detail to what was previously alleged.

Security watchers are interested in the InfoWar research but cautious about the conclusion that the Chinese government is necessarily behind the malware.

"At no point does it gather enough evidence to prove, conclusively, that the Chinese government or the People's Liberation Army are behind the attacks," Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos said. "Just because Chinese computers are used in the scheme, does not mean that the Chinese authorities are behind the operation."

Cluley added that he'd be surprised if China was the only government engaged in cyber-espionage. "We would be fools to believe that countries would consider the internet and spyware "off-limits" as a tool for espionage. Countries are spying on each other all across the world for political, commercial and military advantage," he said. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
Carders punch holes through Staples
Investigation launched into East Coast stores
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.