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January 19, 2010

More Chinese Hacking, Stealing of Information
By David Sims
TMCnet Contributing Editor

The news on Chinese hacking just gets worse for Western businesses.

IDG News reported that the Gmail accounts of foreign reporters in at least two news bureaus in Beijing have been hijacked, citing a journalists' group in China.

Last week, of course, Google discovered it had been targeted by highly sophisticated cyberattacks accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. 
The attacks were so well-coordinated and sophisticated that some researchers believe the Chinese government was involved. VeriSign (News - Alert) officials said they have "confirmed with two independent sources that both the source IPs and drop server (the server used to host malicious code and store the stolen files) of the attack correspond to a single foreign entity consisting of either agents of the Chinese state or those acting on their behalf," according to industry observer Sarah Perez.

"Well-known Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao last week said in a blog post that his Gmail account had recently been hacked. Other Chinese dissidents including artist Ai Weiwei have reportedly made similar statements in recent days," IDG said.
David Drummond, senior vice president, corporate development and chief legal officer for Google (News - Alert), wrote on the official Google blog that "in mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google."
Instead of being just a significant yet isolated security incident, Drummond said, "this attack was not just on Google. We have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses have been similarly targeted." 

The hackers, trying to get source code from Google, Adobe and other companies, used "unprecedented tactics that combined encryption, stealth programming and an unknown hole in Internet Explorer," according to new details released by the anti-virus firm McAfee (News - Alert), reported by industry observer Kim Zetter.

In the most recent instance, the journalists' hijacked Gmail accounts were set to forward all e-mails to a stranger's address, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said in an e-mail to members. IDG reported that "the group did not name the news organizations hit by the attack or say when the hijacking occurred."

The group noted that "journalists in China have been particular targets of hacker attacks in the last two years."

The Internet Explorer 6 browser from Microsoft (News - Alert) is taking the heat for being a crucial tool in the hackers' work. In what is surely an unprecedented move, industry observer Frederic Lardinois reports that In an unprecedented move, "the German government has now told its citizens to avoid using Internet Explorer for the time being."

McAfee Chief Technology Officer George Kurtz
called the attacks on Google and other companies "a watershed moment in cybersecurity," due to "the targeted and coordinated nature of the attack with the main goal appearing to be to steal core intellectual property."

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Amy Tierney


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