31 Jan 2013

New York Times under Siege by Chinese Hackers

The New York Times claims to have been under attack by Chinese hackers after its investigation into China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. All 53 employees had their computers spied on and information concerning the newspaper’s sources and contributors were targeted.

The “unusual activity”was investigated by security firm Mandian, which concluded that the attack patterns closely resemble those of the Chinese military. By routing traffic through university computers and changing their IP addresses, attackers targeted individuals by attaching malicious attachments to emails or by installing spying software.

Denying any part in these attacks, China’s Ministry of National Defense commented the accusations as “unprofessional and baseless”.

“Chinese laws prohibit any action including hacking that damages Internet security,” the Ministry told the Times. “To accuse the Chinese military of launching cyberattacks without solid proof is unprofessional and baseless.”

State-sponsored attacks and cyber-attacks against other countries have been a growing trend and the U.S. Economic and Security Review Commission issued a report stressing the growing threat China poses in cyberspace.

Although the New York Times was able to fend off attacks for now, Mandiant's chief security officer, Richard Bejtlich, believes such attacks won’t stop. With the newspaper publicly targeted, it paints it as the latest fad in the world of cyber-criminals looking for fame and glory.

"Once they take a liking to a victim, they tend to come back. It's not like a digital crime case where the intruders steal stuff and then they're gone,” said Bejtlich. “This requires an internal vigilance model."