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Chinese authorities have closed down a firm that allegedly trained hackers to develop spyware and launch cyberattacks.

Police in the central Chinese province of Hubei province arrested three people when they closed down Black Hawk Safety Net, described by the official Xinhua news agency as running the country's biggest hacker training website.

Black Hawk Safety Net offered hacker tools and Trojan software to 12,000 VIP paid-up members. Another 170,000 had signed up to the site for the reduced set of tools available to casual, non-paying members. The firm is also accused of running 'hacking for cybercrooks' courses.

The arrests follow widely reported accusations that hackers based in China hacked into the systems of Google, Adobe and 32 other blue chip firms organisations back in December. Cyber-espionage attacks against big firms and government departments around the globe have been going on for five years or more, and the so-called Operation Aurora attacks are only notable because Google went public and pointed the finger of blame towards China.

The accusations have triggered a diplomatic row between China and the US. The raid on Black Hawk Safety Net actually happened in November but only hit the news on Monday, suggesting the raid may have been primarily designed to appease the security concerns of Western governments and hi-tech firms rather than as part of a genuine crackdown.

AFP reports that police froze assets more than 1.7 million yuan ($250,000 dollars) in assets and seized nine web servers, five computers and a car when they raided the Xuchang city, Henan headquarters of Black Hawk Safety Net back in November. Denial of service attacks aimed at organisations in the Hubei city of Macheng during 2007 and blamed on three graduates of Black Hawk Safety Net reportedly sparked the law enforcement action.

Chinese authorities, who have vehemently denied involvement in the Google/Operation Aurora attacks, are resisting Western calls to investigate those assaults. ®

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