A recent report from the Wall Street Journal identifies a crackdown on hacking and cyberattacks in China, noting that accusations from abroad, regarding government-backed hackers in China allegedly attacking websites and networks of foreign companies and governments, had not been formally addressed. An announcement from China’s Ministry of Public Security said that, in recent years, hundreds of alleged hackers were arrested and a number of hacker-training websites shut down; however, the announcement warned that such activity remains a severe problem in China, reinforcing a global concern over what experts say is a rapid growth in cybercrime activity there.
The Ministry of Public Security notice said that Chinese authorities, in a sting operation which began in March, had arrested 460 hackers, resolved 180 cases of computer crimes, closed 14 websites providing hacking software or training, and cited 10 examples of “police breakthroughs.”
According to the WSJ report, China battles a vast and intricate hacking network that international experts see as a threat globally. Many Chinese hackers develop their craft on internet forums, collaborating informally to assemble and distribute malicious programs that steal account passwords, financial information and other potentially valuable data.
Global attention to Chinese hacking is more acute given recent allegations from Google Inc. that a series of cyberattacks originating in China had been carried out against it and other foreign companies. More recently, these allegations were augmented, after one of a series of U.S. diplomatic cables made public by the website WikiLeaks relayed an allegation by a U.S. Embassy source in Beijing that the attacks against Google had been ordered by the Politburo, the governing group of China’s Communist Party.
The WSJ reports that China’s Foreign Ministry has declined comment on the content of the leaked cables, and claims that the Chinese government has repeatedly denied involvement in cyberattacks, remaining mostly unresponsive to foreign concerns, despite the Ministry of Public Security’s reported 80% increase in cybercrime incidents alleged in recent years.
While China has touted its efforts to shut down hacking operations—citing, for example, the shuttering this year of a website said to be China’s largest distributor of tools used in virulent internet attacks, reported to have generated close to a million U.S. dollars in income from more than 12,000 subscribers—some Internet users remain skeptical, as some of the websites purportedly shut down appear to be still accessible, shadowing credibility. “Obviously the content mentioned in this report contradicts the facts,” said one commenter on www.mybr.org, an online forum on computer security.
The WSJ report states that tensions over computer-security issues between China and the U.S. have increased, citing the U.S. Defense Department and some U.S. lawmakers’ efforts to keep Chinese vendors from bidding on network equipment contracts with major U.S. telecom carriers because of concerns that incorporating Chinese equipment into critical U.S. infrastructure could compromise security. According to sources, at least one Chinese vendor, Huawei Technologies Ltd., has petitioned that such fears are groundless.
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