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China again accused of cyber attacks
Published: 2007-12-06

Chinese officials criticized the media this week for "extremely irresponsible reporting," after several newspapers reported that the United Kingdom's intelligence service, MI5, had warned technology and infrastructure companies to watch out for online attacks sponsored by China.

While the allegations are not the first time that government officials have charged China with sponsoring online attacks, the British government took a significant step and, in a letter, warned the CEOs of more than 300 major companies of the danger, the Times reported on Saturday. Both Rolls-Royce and Royal Dutch Shell were targeted by attacks on their networks that experts had tracked back to China, according to another report this week.

The Chinese government lashed out at the reports, calling them "irresponsible."

"The Chinese Government always opposes and forbids any cyber crimes including 'hacking' that undermine the security of computer networks," Qin Gang, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy to the United States, said during a press conference on Tuesday. "Chinese laws and regulations are explicit in this regard. Law-enforcement authorities of the two countries are having cooperation on combating cyber crimes and we hope this cooperation is based on mutual respect and objectivity."

German and U.S. government officials have previously reported that attacks coming from China had targeted government networks. In August, German media reported that attacks allegedly sponsored by the Chinese military had targeted the computers of Germany's top officials. The reports surfaced just as Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel began a week-long diplomatic mission to China. Following the reports, U.S. officials renewed concerns that attacks on Pentagon systems -- and past attacks on the Departments of State and Commerce -- had been sponsored by China.

In 2005, SecurityFocus reported that security firms and government response agencies had warned that e-mail messages carrying malicious code were targeting specific individuals at large corporations and sensitive government agencies.

Security experts have underscored the difficulty of pinpointing the source of specific attacks, as any computer can be compromised and used for an attack.

If you have tips or insights on this topic, please contact SecurityFocus.

Posted by: Robert Lemos
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