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Large Internet spy network uncovered in China


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March 30, 2009

Based in China, a cyber spy network has successfully infiltrated computer networks from government offices around the world, according to the BBC. The network has infiltrated no less than 1,295 computers in 103 countries in the past year.

Computers belonging to foreign ministries and embassies and those linked with the Dalai Lama have been hacked into and their data has been compromised. However, there's still no conclusive evidence that China's government was behind it, and Beijing has denied its involvement.

Canadian researchers have found that ministries of foreign affairs of Iran, Bangladesh, Latvia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, Barbados and Bhutan appear to had been targeted.

Compromised systems were also discovered in the embassies of countries including India, South Korea, Indonesia, Romania, Cyprus, Thailand, Germany and Pakistan.

Security analysts say the attacks are in effect industrial espionage, with hackers showing an interest in the activities of lawmakers and large companies.

Investigator Greg Walton was quoted by the Associated Press as saying "we uncovered real-time evidence of malware that had penetrated Tibetan computer systems, extracting sensitive documents from the private office of the Dalai Lama."

Security researchers also added that hackers were apparently able to take control of computers belonging to several foreign ministries and embassies across the world using malicious software.

By installing malicious software on compromised computer systems, attackers were able to successfully take control and receive classified and very sensitive data.

According to the New York Times, the China spying operation is the largest to have been uncovered in terms of the number of countries affected.

In this particular case, the software also gave hackers the ability to use audio and video recording devices to even monitor the rooms the computers were located in! However, investigators said they didn't know whether or not this element had been used.

In an abstract for a second report released on Sunday by two Cambridge University researchers - entitled The Snooping Dragon: Social Malware Surveillance of the Tibetan Movement - investigators said while such attacks certainly weren't new, these particularly stood out for their ability to collect "actionable intelligence for use by the police and security services of a repressive state, with potentially fatal consequences for those exposed".

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Source: The BBC.


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