Chinese Cyberspace Espionage Affects 103 Nations

Dennis Faas's picture

A Canadian surveillance project has discovered that 1,295 computers in 103 countries have been the victims of an international band of hackers. If that isn't scary enough, there is now circumstantial evidence that suggests the Chinese government may have played a role.

The 53-page report, submitted by the Information Warfare Monitor, a joint venture shared between the SecDev group of Ottawa and the University of Toronto, classified almost 30 percent of the infected machines as being of "high value", namely the databases of international embassies, ministries of foreign affairs and other international organizations.

Among the embassies affected included those located in Cyprus, Germany and India. Also targeted were the ministries of foreign affairs in Bangladesh, Iran, and the Philippines. In addition, the international organizations ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and an unclassified NATO computer were also the victims of similar attacks. (Source:

Social Malware: Cyber Weapon of Choice

The hackers are believed to have used social malware viruses. This means that at one point, users logged onto the computers listed above were enticed to click onto an email attachment, link or URL under false pretences, and when doing so, exposed confidential information saved onto the hard drive.

The hackers then assumed control through a network called GhostNet, which uses a malicious software program called gh0st RAT (Remote Access Tool) to steal sensitive documents, control web cameras and take over the entire computer database. The Information Warfare Monitor now has evidence proving that the servers collecting the data from these infected computers are located in China. (Source:

Is the Chinese government involved?

While it can be proven that the hackers are receiving their stolen information via Chinese servers, allegations of the Chinese government being in full support of these efforts is a bit more complicated.

The Government of China has been using the Internet since the 1990s to keep tabs on the military progress of other nations. Many feel that over a decade later, very little has changed.

Still, others feel that calling out the Chinese government based on gut instincts is "wrong and misleading," especially since the stolen information is not known to have contained anything of importance or value.

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