Spying on Computer Spies Traces Data Theft to China

A team of researchers in Toronto has traced a computer spy network that has hacked into government computers in India and elsewhere. From the New York Times:

The Toronto spy hunters not only learned what kinds of material had been stolen, but were able to see some of the documents, including classified assessments about security in several Indian states, and confidential embassy documents about India’s relationships in West Africa, Russia and the Middle East. The intruders breached the systems of independent analysts, taking reports on several Indian missile systems. They also obtained a year’s worth of the Dalai Lama’s personal e-mail messages.

The intruders even stole documents related to the travel of NATO forces in Afghanistan, illustrating that even though the Indian government was the primary target of the attacks, one chink in computer security can leave many nations exposed.

…The attacks look like the work of a criminal gang based in Sichuan Province, but as with all cyberattacks, it is easy to mask the true origin, the researchers said. Given the sophistication of the intruders and the targets of the operation, the researchers said, it is possible that the Chinese government approved of the spying.

When asked about the new report on Monday, a propaganda official in Sichuan’s capital, Chengdu, said “it’s ridiculous” to suggest that the Chinese government might have played a role. “The Chinese government considers hacking a cancer to the whole society,” said the official, Ye Lao.

The full report can be read here.