Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Chinese hackers attacked Belgium

Belgium joined the growing ranks of countries voicing concerns about cyber attacks originating from China. Belgium is believed to have been targeted because the headquarters of the European Union and NATO are located here and because of Belgium's track record in Africa. In recent days, the Chinese have shown growing interest for this continent.

Justice minister Jo Vandeurzen claimed that the Federal Government had been targeted by Chinese hackers, backing up a separate statement by Belgium's foreign affairs minister, Karel De Grucht that his ministry had been hit by espionage in recent weeks.

In both cases, the Belgians appear certain that the culprits were Chinese and that the Beijing authorities must know something about events, although no evidence has been offered to back up these allegations. The precise nature of the attacks has not been explained either.

If the accusation is justified, it is starting to look as if Chinese-originated cyber-attacks have spread well beyond the obvious Western targets.

The Chinese have been implicated in acts of cyber-espionage in the last couple of years, including various alleged assaults on US military systems in 2006 and 2007. As recently as last September, a "leaked" report blamed the Chinese for a similar attack on the Pentagon.

The US reports have come in the form of briefings from unnamed individuals or leaks, suggesting that the US was sending a coded warning to the Chinese that such events risked damaging relations between the countries. The US suspects China of using espionage to make gains in the software, integrated circuit, computing, electronics, telecommunications and information security sectors in an effort to shift the People's Liberation Army (PLA) "into an information-based, network-enabled force."

The UK, by contrast, has been more pointed. In late 2007 it openly sent letters to large UK companies warning them of the threat from Chinese-backed cyber-warfare.

"There simply isn't enough evidence to say whether these attacks were sponsored by the Chinese Government or not," said Graham Cluley of Sophos on the Belgian attacks.

"Governments need to think carefully before accusing another of spying via the Internet - unless they have strong proof. There is no doubt however of the importance of securing critical computers inside government from hackers whether motivated by politics, espionage or money," he added.

China has denied responsibility for any attacks coming from the country, but security experts have stated that the country -- and at least two dozen, and as many as a hundred, other nations -- routinely probe, and even attack, each other networks. Germany's government has acknowledged, for example, that the nation's intelligence agency has engaged in cyber espionage to gain information from computers in Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In April, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) decided to establish a Cyber Defense Management Authority (CDMA) to coordinate its member countries responses to hostile online attacks.
You can read a US military report on China here

Source TechWorld

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