Feeds

Chinese hackers target media in anniversary run-up

News organisations, NGOs hit by trojan attacks

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

Chinese workers in foreign media outlets within China are in the firing line of a new wave of malware-laden emails.

The timing of the emails, in the run-up to the 60th anniversary of the Communist Party's rise to power in mainland China on 1 October, has sparked dark accusations (supported by circumstantial evidence) that the Chinese government might be behind the attacks.

Human rights groups are also getting targeted in the latest wave of cyber-attacks, which are far from unprecedented.

"There is definitely a pattern of virus attacks in the run-up to important dates on the Chinese political calendar," Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong told Reuters.

"Whether the government is behind it, closes its eyes to it, supports it or has nothing to with it is unclear. There are also patriotic hackers, so there is no way to know for sure who is behind it."

The latest wave of attacks involves the forwarding of kosher emails from activist organisations together with a fake malware-ridden attachment. The tactic gets around earlier tell-tale signs of malicious emails, such as poor spelling. In addition, email addresses are spoofed to disguise their true origin.

Reuters reports that Chinese workers at foreign news organisations across China received identical emails on Monday, each containing an attachment designed to exploit a recently-patched flaw in Adobe Acrobat. Flaws in Adobe's software applications are becoming a favourite in targeted attacks, second only to Microsoft Office-themed assaults.

The tainted emails posed as a request by a fictitious economics editor called Pam Bouron to line-up interviews in advance of a supposed visit to Beijing. The messages were tailored so that Bouron appeared to work for each of the targeted news outlets: Reuters, the Straits Times, Dow Jones, AFP, and Italian news agency Ansa.

The "Pam Bouron" emails targeted Chinese workers whose names were not typically included in news reports. These workers are hired through an agency which reports to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, a fact seized on by some as circumstantial evidence of possible Chinese government involvement in the ruse.

Many foreign reporters in Beijing and Shanghai received malware-laden emails shortly after the initial attack.

Trojan tainted emails were also sent to foreign news agencies and non-government organisations in the run-up to last year's Beijing Olympics, Reuters adds.

In related developments, Beijing authorities have reportedly tightened physical security in the run-up to a military parade and other celebrations to celebrate National Day. The government has also reportedly mandated the use of stricter ISP-level censorware filters in an attempt to further control internet access in the run-up to 1 October. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.