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Talk of the Day -- Cyberattack from China? Beyond reasonable doubt

2011/08/04 21:54:10

U.S.-based computer security firm McAfee Inc. released a report earlier this week saying that cybercriminals have spent at least the last five years targeting more than 70 government entities, nonprofit groups and corporations around the world, stealing huge amounts of data.

"After painstaking analysis of the logs, even we were surprised by the enormous diversity of the victim organizations and were taken aback by the audacity of the perpetrators," the 14-page report said.

It described the assaults as highly sophisticated cyberattacks that appear to have been operated by a government body. But McAfee did not identify which country it believed was behind the massive attacks.

Major local newspapers cited cybersecurity experts at home and abroad as reporting Thursday that China is the most likely culprit.

The following are excerpts from the lcoal media coverage of the issue:

China Times:

The McAfee report said organizations in the United States constituted 49 of the 72 targets in the hacking, while governments, companies and nonprofit organizations in Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Switzerland have also been attacked multiple times.

According to the report, the computer system of a Taiwanese government agency came under attack in April 2008 and the hacking lasted for eight months. A Taiwanese electronics corporation was also hacked in September 2007 and this also lasted for eight months.

James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a U.S. think tank, said earlier this week that China is the most likely perpatrator.

An Executive Yuan official in charge of information security echoed Lewis' view, saying it was a "beyond reasonable doubt."

But he added that it is not easy to track down the origin of cyberattacks because hackers tend to use remote access tool.

He said the Executive Yuan has strengthened computer security standards to prevent information theft and ensure Internet freedom.

"Our cybersecurity standards have passed ISO27001 international certification," he added. (Aug. 4, 2011).

Liberty Times: Taiwan's military authorities said China's "online blue army" has customarily launched experimental attacks on Taiwan's cyber networks whenever it develops new online warfare strategies, to test their efficacy.

"We are often the first target of cyberattacks from the Chinese mainland," said a military computer security officer, who added that as such attacks tend to be very powerful, they are probably backed by the Chinese authorities.

In its report, McAfee said it learned of the hacking campaign last March, when it discovered logs of attacks while reviewing the contents of a server it had discovered in 2009 as part of an investigation into security breaches at defense companies.

The McAfee report dubbed the attack "Operation Shady RAT" -- RAT stands for remote access tool, a type of software used to gain access to computer networks.

The earliest breaches dated from mid-2006, the report said, but it added that there might be other intrusions still undetected. (Aug. 4, 2011).

(By Sofia Wu)