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China Wages Secret Cyber War Against The New York Times

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Posted on Jan 31, 2013
alextorrenegra (CC BY 2.0)

“Revelations that China apparently targeted the New York Times in a campaign of cyber-espionage have cast a rare spotlight on attempts by Beijing to crack down on any criticism of its ruling elite,” The Guardian reports.

The effort was detected by the Times’ digital staff and is believed to have been linked to the paper’s October exposé on the riches accumulated by the family of outgoing president and leading communist Wen Jiabao. Beijing aggressively denies the allegations.

“This is business-as-usual from what we can tell for aspects of the Chinese government,” said Marc Frons, head of the newspaper’s digital technology and its chief information officer. Frons told The Guardian that the Times expects more such attempts in the future. “It is really spy versus spy,” he said. “I don’t think we can relax. I am pretty sure that they will be back.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Guardian:

The hackers gained entry to the newspaper’s internal systems and accessed the personal computers of 53 employees including David Barboza, its Shanghai bureau chief and author of the Wen exposé, and Jim Yardley, a former Beijing bureau chief.

An investigation by Mandiant, a cyber-security company hired by the New York Times, concluded that the hacks were likely part of an elaborate spy campaign with links to the country’s military. The company traced the source of the attacks to university computers that the “Chinese military had used to attack United States Military contractors in the past”, the Times said.

Although the hackers gained passwords for every Times employee, Mandiant found that they only sought information that was related to the Wen story. “They were after David Barboza’s source list; confidential names and numbers and looking to find out who he was talking to,” said Frons.

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