Feeds

China rubbishes cyber-espionage claims

Spooky Ghostnet revives malware spying accusations

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.