Chinese Cyber War operatives continue their international hacking campaign, the latest victims being senior officials of the Australian government. This despite over five years of these attacks on governments worldwide. All major nations now know what China is up to, but no one can stop it.
For example, four years ago, someone hacked into the computer networks of several German government ministries (Foreign, Economics and Research), as well as the office of the Chancellor (Angela Merkel, the head of the government). Some 160 gigabytes of data was moved to computers in northern China. This revelation was leaked to the media while the Chancellor was in China, to discuss trade matters, and demand that China do more to stop the theft of German intellectual property. China denied any involvement.
The recent Australian attack was also traced back to China. Typically, these Chinese attacks are carried out so that they would not be detected. But increasingly, the intrusions are detected, as are the thefts (often consisting of hundreds of gigabytes of data, which always seems to end up on a server in China). Naturally, the Chinese deny everything, but the victims, particularly when they are governments of major nations, continue to build a case that will prove all these hacks were Chinese government sponsored operations.
The first major hack of government computer networks took place back in the 1980s, when a gang of West German hackers, hired by the Soviet secret police (KGB) were caught inside U.S. Department of Defense networks, stealing classified data. The U.S. is still the major target of organized hacking. In the last few years, the hacker activity has accelerated. Attacks against U.S. Department of Defense networks have increased each year for over a decade.
There has been a lot more email based attacks recently. These are increasingly targeted at specific types of military of government users, or even individuals. In the last few years, there have been many more attempts to insert viruses, worms and Trojan horse software on military systems. The attackers are looking for information, or secret control of, or at least access, to military systems.
Some of the attacks have been massive and well organized, and seem to come from China. Five years ago, when the attacks became more widespread, major American targets like the National Defense University, the Naval War College, Fort Hood and several defense contractors were hit. Each of these cost $20-30 million to clean up after. Recent victims have also found the cleanup bill to be large, but not as expensive as all the lost data.