Information Warfare: China Invades Germany and Gets Caught

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August 28, 2007: Chinese Cyber War operatives have, over the last three months, 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.

The Chinese attack was supposed to be done so that it would not be detected. But it was, and as much as 200 additional gigabytes of data did not make its way to China. Naturally, the Chinese deny everything, but the Germans are apparently still building their case that this was a Chinese government sponsored operation. 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. Currently, Department of Defense networks get probed six million times a day. Since last year there has been a 46 percent increase in attacks on Department of Defense web sites. There has been 28 percent more email based attacks. These are increasingly targeted at specific types of military users, or even individuals. This year, there were more than twice as many 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. There have been several of these major attacks in the last year, hitting targets like the National Defense University, the Naval War College, Fort Hood and several defense contractors. Each of these cost $20-30 million to clean up after. The Germans will probably spend at least as much, plus the diplomatic fallout if the Chinese are pressed on the matter.

 


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