China Government Struck by 500,000 Cyberattacks in 2010

By Erin Harrison August 09, 2011

Almost half of the nearly 500,000 cyberattacks aimed at computers in China in 2010 originated overseas, according to government officials who reportedly said the vast majority of the attacks a Chinese monitoring agency reported were in the form of Trojan horse malware that installs on computers.

The Trojan horse malware allows cybercriminals to monitor usage and access personal information, the Associated Press reported.

The news comes just days after computer security firm McAfee said it had “uncovered a massive global cyber spying campaign it described as a five-year targeted operation by one unnamed actor – which several analysts have indicated was China,” the AFP reported Tuesday.

The findings were reported on the website of the National Computer Network Emergency Response Coordination Center of China, according to the AP, which said that “of those Trojan horse attacks, 14.7 percent of those were traced to IP addresses in the United States and 8 percent in India.”

CNCERT/CC is a national level CERT organization responsible for the coordination of activities among all Computer Emergency Response Teams within China concerning incidents on national public networks, according to CNCERT /CC officials.

Dmitri Alperovitch, vice president, threat research at McAfee and author of the Aug. 5 report, said McAfee is “publishing the most comprehensive analysis ever revealed of victim profiles from a five-year targeted operation by one specific actor, ‘Operation Shady RAT,’ as I have named it at McAfee (RAT is a common acronym in the industry that stands for remote access tool).”

McAfee said it had identified “72 targeted intrusions” – 49 of them American, including 14 federal, state and county agencies and 11 defense contractors – and also informed law enforcement agencies, which it said were investigating.

With broad suspicion falling on China, recent reports have suggested Beijing might be behind long-term security attacks internationally.

“McAfee Inc. reported in early August that cyberattacks lasting at least five years targeted more than 70 entities,” the AP reported. Those entities include national governments; targets identified by the firm include the United Nations, the International Olympic Committee and many American companies

China has not responded officially but state media has said the speculation of a Chinese link was irresponsible, the AP said. Instead, China has denied charges of hacking and claims that its own country is a victim of hacking.

Jeff Moss, an Internet security expert, defended the country, saying it would be difficult to narrow down the suspects in a broad campaign. “China is a pretty convenient punching bag,” he told The New York Times.

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Erin Harrison is Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives, for TMC, where she oversees the company's strategic editorial initiatives, including the launch of several new print and online initiatives. She plays an active role in the print publications and TechZone360, covering IP communications, information technology and other related topics. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives

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