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Chinese government under cyber siege

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The Chinese government claims it came under almost 500,000 cyberattacks last year, most of which it said originated outside the country.

Most of the attacks involved Trojan horse malware, according to a report by the National Computer Network Emergency Response Coordination Center of China. A report by the cyber-monitoring agency, published on Tuesday, said that 14.7 per cent of the attacks came from the United States with a further 8 per cent originating in India, according to Kaspersky Labs security blog Threatpost.

The revelations come a week after McAfee published a report on the so-called Shady RAT cyber espionage network. Attacks from the network targeted more than 70 organizations, including defense contractors, governments and the International Olympic Committee over the course of five years. McAfee said the attacks had the hallmarks of a state-sponsoured cyberespionage operation rather than being the work of financially motivated crooks.

McAfee was careful not to blame China for the attacks, though others had no such scruples. Meanwhile other security commentators, such as Sophos (here) and GFI Software (here), said the attacks themselves were nothing out of the ordinary.

Although China routinely gets blamed for cyber-espionage attacks, it's a safe bet to assume that just about every capable intelligence agency is playing this game. Seen in that context, the Chinese report represents a counter offensive in an ongoing propaganda war.

An added consideration in the field of cybercrime is the problem of attribution. When a country is physically attacked by another country it's generally quite straightforward to point the finger of blame towards the offending party. However cyberattacks can easily be launched from compromised machines in third-party countries, making it very difficult to know with any certainty who is behind an attack. ®

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