China Attacks British Government Computers

The Guardian reports that China is responsible for recent attacks on British Foreign Office communications:

William Hague told a security conference in Munich that the FO repelled the attack last month from “a hostile state intelligence agency”. Although the foreign secretary did not name the country behind the attacks, intelligence sources familiar with the incidents made it clear he was referring to China. The sources did not want to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the issue.

In his speech Hague was reflecting growing anger and concern within the government about the increasing threat posed by cyber-espionage – states, as well as individuals, using cyberspace to steal defence, diplomatic and commercial secrets.

“It is a new development. The UK is prepared to admit the attacks were state-backed,” said Alexander Neill, head of the Asia programme at the Royal United Services Institute thinktank.

The foreign secretary said the FO attack came in the form of an email sent to three of his staff “which claimed to be about a forthcoming visit to the region and looked quite innocent”. “In fact it was from a hostile state intelligence agency and contained computer code embedded in the attached document that would have attacked their machine. Luckily, our systems identified it and stopped it from ever reaching my staff,” Hague said.

See also: The top 10 Chinese cyber attacks (that we know of) from Foreign Policy (January 2010).