Hacking Inquiry Puts China’s Elite in New Light; US Experts Close in on Google Hackers

Following revelations that the cyber attack on Google and other corporations may have originated at two Chinese universities, the New York Times takes a closer look at one of them, Shanghai Jiaotong University:

One of Jiaotong’s strongest departments is computer science, which has garnered support from some of America’s biggest technology companies, including Cisco Systems. Microsoft has collaborated with Jiaotong on a laboratory for intelligent computing and intelligent systems at the university.

Two weeks ago, Jiaotong students won an international computer programming competition sponsored by I.B.M., known as the Battle of the Brains, beating out Stanford and other elite institutions. It was the third time in the last decade that Jiaotong students had taken the top prize.

Jiaotong is also home to the School of Information Security Engineering, which specializes in Internet security. The school’s dean and chief professor have both worked on technology matters for the People’s Liberation Army, according to the school’s Web site.

The school, which has received financing from a high-level government science and technology project, code-named 863, has also regularly invited world-famous hackers and Web security experts to lecture there.

Also, the Financial Times has more details about the individual who may be responsible for the Google hacker attack:

A freelance security consultant in his 30s wrote the part of the program that used a previously unknown security hole in the Internet Explorer web browser to break into computers and insert the spyware, a researcher working for the US government told the Financial Times. Chinese officials had special access to the work of the author, who posted pieces of the program to a hacking forum and described it as something he was “working on”.

…The man who wrote code to take advantage of the browser flaw is not a full-time government worker, did not launch the attack, and in fact would prefer not be used in such offensive efforts, according to the US team that discovered his role.

“If he wants to do the research he’s good at, he has to toe the line now and again,” the US analyst said. “He would rather not have uniformed guys looking over his shoulder, but there is no way anyone of his skill level can get away from that kind of thing. The state has privileged access to these researchers’ work.”