Apr 02 2009

Virtual Spy Ring Tied to China

by at 11:20 pm under 2008-09 Fellows

The New York Times reported this past week that a virtual spy ring has accessed information off of computers in 103 countries. The finding was unearthed by researchers at the Munk Center for International Studies in Canada, and indicates that most of the computers involved in the spying were located in China. The researchers have not yet been able to definitively conclude whether or not the Chinese Government was involved in the spying program, or whether it is the work of a private, for profit firm.

Regardless of who the perpetrators are, the scope and capabilities of the spying network are cause for concern. In addition to being able to access private documents, the article reports that the spying company was able to implant technology onto recipient computers that would allow the spies to turn on the camera and sound recording functions on computers equipped with them.

The researchers started on the trail of this spying operation after being asked by the Dalai Lama to investigate computers in his office for tainted software. Indeed the researchers found that the computers had been infected with malware.  While no one has yet linked the Chinese government to the program, representatives of the Dalai Lama have indicated that some of their electronic contacts have been contacted and discouraged/intimidated by the Chinese government.

This invasion of privacy could become particularly damning for the Chinese government and its interaction with the cyber world. In a previous case, the government was proven to have tapped into instant message conversations citizens were having on the Chinese version of Skype. Further, two weeks ago, the government banned youtube during the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising.

The full report of the latest findings has been published on the Information Warfare Monitor.

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