The story in the press alleging that Chinese computer hackers are attempting to gain access to state secrets (see “US Warned of China Cyber Spying“) is not new by any means. Newspapers were reporting similar stories well over a year ago (such as this one in the Independant “State secrets under attack from Chinese hackers”) and at the start of 2008 I commented on this blog that it would only be a matter of time before the issue made the mainstream.
A recent entry on the Dark Visitor blog remarks that “At this point, it may be easier to list the government organizations that haven’t been compromised by Chinese hackers.”
Most interesting of all is the article about the Chinese PLA army exercise where malware had a significant impact on the outcome. Apparently “operations were hampered due to a computer virus that left the main attack force without ammunition resupply.”
Commander Li further stated, “Due to patches not being installed, the infecting virus led to the failure of the exercise and this sounded alarm bells for us. When you sharpen your sword, you must not forget to cast your shield
Of course, the Chinese are not the only ones at it. Going back to 1999, the Washington Post reported on information warfare against Yugoslavia where “American hackers plundered Yugoslav bank accounts and took other Clancy-esque actions against Slobodan Milosevic’s networks and infrastructure..”
Here in the UK the government also employs its own hacker force, although not overtly tasked with attacking foreign resources. They are, as Computer Weekly reported back in July 2000, “ethical hackers” which is government speak for working for us rather than working for them.
Hacking is a relatively safe way for all sides to gather intelligence: James Bond can now gather all his information using nothing more than a cheap Netbook connected to pay-as-you-go broadband. Much less chance of him meeting his demise hacking into Blofeld’s network whilst sipping a Martini in an All Bar One in West London than trying to break into a secret installation somewhere inside a volcano. But obviously much less fun..