Archive for the ‘cyber attack’ Category

China has accelerated computer espionage

November 20, 2008

China has accelerated computer espionage attacks on the U.S. government, defense contractors and American businesses, a congressional advisory panel said Thursday.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission also said in its annual report to lawmakers that aggressive Chinese space programs are allowing Beijing to more effectively target U.S. military forces.

“China is stealing vast amounts of sensitive information from U.S. computer networks,” said Larry Wortzel, chairman of the commission set up by Congress in 2000 to advise, investigate and report on U.S.-China issues.

The commission of six Democrats and six Republicans said in the unanimously approved report that China’s massive military modernization and its “impressive but disturbing” space and computer warfare capabilities “suggest China is intent on expanding its sphere of control even at the expense of its Asian neighbors and the United States.”

By FOSTER KLUG, Associated Press Writer

The commission recommended that lawmakers provide money for U.S. government programs that would monitor and protect computer networks.

Messages left with the Chinese Embassy in Washington were not immediately returned.

But officials in Beijing have responded to past reports of this kind by saying that China does not try to undermine other countries’ interests and seeks strong ties with the United States.

The report comes two months before President-elect Barack Obama takes office. The Democratic Obama administration probably will continue the Republican Bush administration‘s efforts to work with and encourage China, a veto-holding member of the U.N. Security Council that the United States needs in nuclear confrontations with Iran and North Korea.

During the campaign for president, then-candidate Obama said that “China is rising, and it’s not going away,” adding that Beijing is “neither our enemy nor our friend; they’re competitors.”

In the commission’s report, military strategist Wang Huacheng is quoted as calling U.S. dependence on space assets and information technology its “soft ribs.”

China’s space program is “steadily increasing the vulnerability of U.S. assets,” the report said. For instance, improvements in satellite imagery allow China to locate U.S. carrier battle groups more accurately, faster and from farther away.

People’s Liberation Army officer and author Cai Fengzhen is quoted as saying that the “area above ground, airspace and outer space are inseparable and integrated. They are the strategic commanding height of modern informationalized warfare.”

“If this becomes Chinese policy,” the report said, “it could set the stage for conflict with the United States and other nations that expect the right of passage for their spacecraft.”

The commission also criticized China for violating commitments to avoid trade-distorting measures, adopting new laws that may restrict foreign access to China’s markets and keeping its currency undervalued.

It recommended that Congress enact legislation to respond to China’s currency manipulation and create enforceable disclosure requirements on investments in the United States for foreign sovereign wealth funds and other foreign state-controlled companies.

Mass Migration, Internet Threatens Britain’s National Security

November 17, 2008

Mass migration and the internet are increasing threats to Britain’s national security, according to former Home Secretary John Reid.

By Christopher Hope, Whitehall Editor
The Telegraph (UK)

National crises which threatened the UK were happening far more than people thought, he added, and were no longer “one-off events”.

The MP for Airdie and Shotts, who will leave the House of Commons at the next general election, said he is setting up a new think tank called the Institute of Security and Resilience Studies.

The new centre will assess long term threats against the UK and other countries.

International migration had increased the range of threats against the UK after the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, he said.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “The chief characteristic of the world we have to face is mobility.

John Reid says mass migration threatens Britain's national security

Above: John Reid listed cyber attacks, pandemics, global warming and energy shortages as threats Photo: PHILIP HOLLIS

“Forty years ago, the Cold War meant that the borders were inviolate, extremist religious groups and ethnic tensions were suppressed, there was no internet and travel was difficult.

“Now you have a completely mobile world. So the great questions of mass migration, international crime and international terrorism were much higher than they were previously.”

The result was “far more sources of insecurity than ever before”, made worse by the advent of the internet which increased the interdependence of the world.

He said: “We have to recognise that on the net you can practically get the full DNA of the First World War flu that killed 24 million people.”

National emergencies were no longer one-off events, he said. “Crises are looked upon as very exceptional circumstances.

“Actually they occur a lot more than people think, a lot more often than people know and they are getting more regular.”

Threats were now cyber attacks, pandemics, global warming and energy shortages.

Politicians were forced to make key decisions under “huge pressure” from the internet and 24 hour news media. Too often Governments were “behind the curve” when trying to deal with new threats, he added.

“Countries, societies and economies that cannot develop better the capacity to prevent, resist and recover will be left vulnerable and exposed.”

The new institute would work on long term solutions with academics and the private sector to try to come up with long term solutions to help ministers on a “non-partisan” basis.

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New Net Reality: Hijacked Web, Deluge of Data Bringing Down Entire Corporate Networks

November 10, 2008

Attackers bent on shutting down large Web sites — even the operators that run the backbone of the Internet — are arming themselves with what are effectively vast digital fire hoses capable of overwhelming the world’s largest networks, according to a new report on online security.

By John Markoff
The International Herald Tribune

In these attacks, computer networks are hijacked to form so-called botnets that spray random packets of data in huge streams over the Internet. The deluge of data are meant to bring down Web sites and entire corporate networks. Known as distributed denial of service, or DDOS, attacks, such cyberweapons are now routinely used during political and military conflicts, as in Estonia in 2007 during a political fight with Russia, and in the Georgian-Russian war last summer. Such attacks are also being used in blackmail schemes and political conflicts, as well as for general malicious mischief.

A survey of 70 of the largest Internet operators in North America, South America, Europe and Asia found that malicious attacks were rising sharply and that the individual attacks were growing more powerful and sophisticated, according to the Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report. This report is produced annually by Arbor Networks, a company in Lexington, Massachusetts, that provides tools for monitoring the performance of networks.

The report, which will be released Tuesday, shows that the largest attacks have grown steadily in size to over 40 gigabits, from less than half a megabit, over the last seven years. The largest network connections generally available today carry 10 gigabits of data, meaning that they can be overwhelmed by the most powerful attackers.

The Arbor Networks researchers said a 40-gigabit attack took place this year when two rival criminal cybergangs began quarreling over control of an online Ponzi scheme. “This was, initially, criminal-on-criminal crime though obviously the greatest damage was inflicted on the infrastructure used by the criminals,” the network operator wrote in a note on the attack.

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47% of Internet software “exploits” first half of 2008 in Chinese

November 4, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Chinese computer users have become chief targets for online criminals, according to a security report released Monday by Microsoft.

The global software giant’s latest assessment of threats and vulnerabilities reveals that attackers favor hiding malicious programs in seemingly innocent Web browser applications and that China is their preferred target.

Ben Wang, director of Florida State's High-performance Materials ...
Above: Ben Wang’s screen looks like your computer after an “intrusion” or “exploit.”

“The majority of (exploits) we are finding is where the local language is set to Chinese,” said Microsoft malware protection center general manager Vinny Gullotto.

“It reflects a lot of what is happening in the Chinese market. There is so much going on out there with the Internet today that it seems to be somewhat natural that we might see this happen there.”

Approximately 47 percent of software “exploits” found stalking the Internet in the first half of 2008 were in Chinese while 23 percent were in English, the second most common language for attack programs.

These include programs which can record a user’s keystrokes or steal passwords and credit card and banking information.

Microsoft security watchdogs say they find higher computer-infection rates in developing countries where fledgling Internet users aren’t savvy to tricks and traps used by hackers and online criminals.

“They are exploring this whole new world and not thinking about what problems they might face,” Gullotto said.

The weapons of choice for online attacks are “Trojan Horses,” software applications hidden inside programs that computer users are duped or coaxed into downloading, according to the Microsoft report.

“The area of concern specifically is browser-based exploits,” Gullotto said.

“If you are out surfing the Web, good or bad, there is the possibility some exploit on that page is going to take advantage of you and compromise some information on your computer.”

Overall, the number of computer vulnerabilities was down 19 percent in the first half of this year as compared to the same period in 2007. A higher amount of the vulnerabilities that do exist are ranked “high severity.”

“Updating is vitally important,” Gullotto said of protecting computers by keeping operating systems and other software current.

“The newer technology you have in the environment the more secure situation you are going to be in — infection rates come down dramatically.”

Cyber Security: World Bank “Invited” Attack; “Gave Away” Millions of Dollars Through IT Office

World Bank Under Cyber Siege in ‘Unprecedented Crisis’

October 10, 2008

By Richard Behar
Fox News

The World Bank Group’s computer network — one of the largest repositories of sensitive data about the economies of every nation — has been raided repeatedly by outsiders for more than a year, FOX News has learned.

It is still not known how much information was stolen. But sources inside the bank confirm that servers in the institution’s highly-restricted treasury unit were deeply penetrated with spy software last April. Invaders also had full access to the rest of the bank’s network for nearly a month in June and July.

In total, at least six major intrusions — two of them using the same group of IP addresses originating from China — have been detected at the World Bank since the summer of 2007, with the most recent breach occurring just last month.

In a frantic midnight e-mail to colleagues, the bank’s senior technology manager referred to the situation as an “unprecedented crisis.” In fact, it may be the worst security breach ever at a global financial institution. And it has left bank officials scrambling to try to understand the nature of the year-long cyber-assault, while also trying to keep the news from leaking to the public.

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The Giant (China) is Restive

February 19, 2008

By James Zumwalt
February 19, 2008

SKorea’s military on alert against overseas hackers

January 3, 2008

SEOUL (AFP) – South Korea‘s military has been put on alert against overseas hackers who have gained access to some soldiers’ personal computers, the defence ministry said Thursday.

It did not identify the country where the hackers are based but Chosun Ilbo newspaper said it was China.

The Defence Security Command, which handles counter-intelligence, this week warned all military units to be on the alert against hacking, a ministry spokesman said.

“The alert was issued after the counter-intelligence command found ‘third-nation’ hackers had successfully broken into some soldiers’ computers via e-mails to steal private data,” the spokesman told AFP.

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North Korean border guards in Panmunjon.  The US State Department ... 


China repeats denial of military hacking

China denies hacking Pentagon

Part I: U.S. Secretary of Defense in China — U.S. Objectives

French government falls prey to cyber-attacks “involving China”

War By Every Possible Means

China’s Golden Cyber-Shield

China Conducts Multi-Nation Cyber Defense Drill

November 23, 2007

VietNamNet Bridge – Yesterday, November 22, Vietnam took part in a regional network security protection rehearsal with 13 organisations from 12 Asia-Pacific economies.

The scenario was that the Chinese Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team (CNCERT) detected hackers launching large-scale attacks from many countries on the official site of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and they requested assistance from emergency response technical teams in Asia-Pacific, including Vietnam.

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Report: “U.S. Military Vulnerable to China’s War Systems”

November 23, 2007

By Bill Gertz
The Washington Times
November 22, 2007

The U.S. military is vulnerable to China’s advanced war-fighting systems, including space weapons and computer attacks that would be used in a future conflict over Taiwan, according to a congressional commission’s report released yesterday.

The full report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission also provides more details than the summary released last week, showing that China is engaged in a “large-scale industrial espionage campaign” with “scores” of cases involving spies seeking U.S. technology.

The full report presents a harsh assessment of China’s military buildup and plans for a war against the U.S. if Beijing decided to use force against the island nation of Taiwan.

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Part I: U.S. Secretary of Defense in China — U.S. Objectives

November 5, 2007

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
November 5, 2007

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is traveling in China this week to discuss a host of issues including “transparency,” space security, cyber security, and the possible installation of a hot line between the two nations.

One of Mr. Gates’ key goals is to encourage China toward more “transparency“ or honest openness in its military budgets, programs and intentions.

The U.S. has been baffled by — and complained about — China’s penchant for secrecy in all things and its sometimes starteling behavior. One surprise incident transpired in 2001 when a U.S. “spy plane” was hit in mid-air — apparently intentionally — by a Chinese fighter jet. The American flight crew and aircraft were held by the Chinese in a provacative standoff.

Secrecy and inexplicable behavior are almost the main hallmarks of communist China’s way of doing business.

But the current regime, headed by President Hu Jintao, considers itself relatively frank and open.

For example, ten years ago, the world would not have known about a Chinese Communist Party Conference until after the conclusion of the event. Last month, China had such a conference, punctuated by televised addresses and nightly news conferences.

Despite these format and window dressing changes, the West still didn’t learn much of the substance about what was really going on.

One of President Hu’s favorites in the Chinese bureaucracy is Vice Premier Wu Yi (her nickname is “The Iron Lady“). She is currently in charge of cleaning up the tainted food scandal. Time Magazine has called her the “goddess of transparency” — which must have made President Hu and Vice Premier Wu beam with pride.

Transparency, and in fact all the other key issues — space security, cyber security, and installation of a hot line between the two nations — might lessen regional tensions.

Japan and Australia have gone on the record with their concerns that China’s lack of openness combined with provocative actions like the test of an anti-satellite system, may be causing instability in the Western pacific region.

Early last July a Defense White Paper from Japan expressed concern about China. “There are fears about the lack of transparency concerning China’s military strength,” the paper said. “In January this year, China used ballistic missile technology to destroy one of its own satellites. There was insufficient explanation from China, sparking concern in Japan and other countries about safety in space as well as the security aspects.”

That same week, Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard said, “The pace and scope of [China’s] military modernization, particularly the development of new and disruptive capabilities such as the anti-satellite missile, could create misunderstandings and instability in the region.”

And on Saturday, November 3, 2007, the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun published an account of their interview with South Korea’s President Roh Moo-Hyun who voiced concern over Japan and China’s military capabilities and build-up.”The hostile relationship between Japan and China is a burden for South Korea,” the President said in the interview.

“Both must make efforts to change their relationship of being vigilant towards each other and of expanding their military arsenal. It’s inevitable that they would react sensitively (to one another),” he added.

The U.S. has concerns about China too, but Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen have gone out of their way to say that China is not a rival or an adversary.

But speaking to Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz last week, Air Force Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said that China’s anti-satellite test and the robust and continual computer hacking caused by China has resulted in increased emphasis in those defense areas for the U.S.

“There has been significant discussion and activity to assess the impact of [the anti-satellite test] and other [Chinese] space developments, and how to protect our extraordinarily important space capability,” he said.

Pentagon officials and media reports have said Chinese military hackers in recent months carried out computer-based attacks on Pentagon and U.S. military and civilian government computer networks, as well as on foreign government networks. Newspapers even cited reliable Pentagon sources as saying Secretary Gates’ Pentagon computer may have been penetrated or disrupted by the Chinese.

And China has established detailed protective measures of its own computer systems, sometimes called “The Great Cyber Wall.”

The idea of a “hot line,” or direct telephone hook-up with round-the-clock translators, comes from a system used for years between the Soviet Union and the United States. The hot line is believed to be a major tool toward increased understanding of events and intentions — thus preventing conflict or weapons use through a misunderstanding.

The idea gained momentum especially among senior Naval Officers after a Chinese submarine surfaced unannounced and unexpectedly and within shooting range of the American aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk late last year.

JCS Chairman Admiral Mullen is known to be a proponent of the hot line and has already discussed the idea with his Chinese counterpart.

So Mr. Gates has clear objectives as he holds discussions with senior Chinese military leaders.

It should come as no surprise that China’s objectives remain shrouded in secrecy.

In Part II on Tuesday we’ll assess the elephant in the meeting room: China’s bocking of U.S. initiatives in the U.N.

Whether the discussions between the U.S. and China will bear fruit remains to be seen. We’ll discuss this more in Part II tomorrow.