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A series of brazen cyberattacks on America’s most high-profile media outlets has revived concerns over Chinese hackers when part of a string of incidents traced back to Chinese servers associated with previous intrusions. 

Analyst say it is likely linked to the secretive Beijing government but other security professionals argue it is hard to be certain the attacks stem from China or that the hackers acted at the behest of the government.

This week, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported that their computer networks had been compromised, James Lewis, cybersecurity specialist at US thinktank the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said there is evidence that backs the allegations of Chinese government involvement.

Hackers from China have previously been linked to attacks on US defense giant Lockheed-Martin, Google and Coca-Cola. Other reports say Chinese hackers have tried to infiltrate the Pentagon’s computers and those of US lawmakers.

Lewis said the level of attacks is “reaching an intolerable level” and will force a US government response that goes beyond words.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that in his coming  book “The New Digital Age” to be released in April, authored by  Google chairman Eric Schmidt in a collaboration with Jared Cohen, a former US State Department advisor who heads a Google Ideas think tank brands China “the world’s most active and enthusiastic filterer of information” and “the most sophisticated and prolific” hacker of foreign companies.

Outgoing US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday that there has been an increase in hacking attacks on both state institutions and private companies. Because of this the United States is going to be having to take actions to protect not only governments but also private sector from this kind of illegal intrusion.
Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at British security firm Sophos, said news media had not considered themselves likely targets of attacks until now and if  if the recent reports are accurate, the goal is likely “to track who the journalists may be meeting and take actions against those people.”

This typically involves “a long-term undercover effort” where hackers seek to prowl computer systems unnoticed. Even if the source of attacks is confirmed, “it’s very hard to neutralize” because hackers can simply move. “Do you want to knock an entire country off the Internet?”

China’s defense ministry reiterated comments this week that it “never supported any hacking attacks.”

Ryan Sherstobitoff, a researcher with the security firm McAfee, said that “it’s hard to pinpoint the origin” of the attacks because computer traffic can be routed through various locations. But he said the overwhelming majority of computer infiltrations come from employees mistakenly opening booby-trapped email attachments faked to appear as if it came from a colleague. And this technique which is known as “spear phishing,” ends up installing malware that can remain on a network and allow hackers to view or control data.
The newspaper said Bloomberg News was also targeted by Chinese hackers. And the Beijing correspondent of Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper said he had been hacked in 2011 in an effort to find China-related files.

Jody Westby, a cybersecurity consultant and adjunct faculty member at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said the attacks “shine a glaring spotlight on the inadequacies of US diplomacy in addressing cyber threats.”

Andrew Mertha, a Cornell University specialist on China, said the cyber spying highlights Beijing’s awkward efforts to extend its global influence.

Cross-posted from: The Raw Story

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