March 31, 2009

China Denies Spying Allegations

On Tuesday, China rejected the notion that it may be involved in using computer networks to spy on exiled Tibetans and foreign governments, Reuters reported.

A controversial new report accuses China of being possessed by "the ghost of the Cold War."

The report's authors say the country has been using the Internet to secretly enter computer networks abroad to carry out sabotage and gather intelligence.

Some 1,295 computers in 103 countries were breached by the spying, but could not be definitively linked to the Chinese government, according to a report from the Toronto-based Munk Center for International Studies in Toronto.

However, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry said its government was committed to protecting Internet security and dismissed such claims as rumor.

Spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news briefing: "Nowadays the problem is that there are some people abroad avidly concocting rumors about China's so-called Internet espionage."

"There's a ghost abroad called the Cold War and a virus called the China threat," Qin said, suggesting that people possessed by the ghost of the Cold War constantly issue this China virus threat.

But the Canadian researchers said in the report released this weekend that China had infiltrated the sites of embassies, foreign ministries and government offices, especially across southeast and south Asia, and the Dalai Lama's Tibetan exile centers.

It claims that a computer located in the private office of the Dalai Lama was infected with a virus that was capable of "phoning home" and stealing information such as email lists with thousands of names and negotiating position documents from the machine and sending it to those in control of the virus.

The Dalai Lama has stated before that his office computers were being hacked into for sometime now. "You see ... some communication between my office and our central secretariat ... seem to reach Chinese hands," he said.

Internet specialists have been asked to look into the breachings, he added.

The study of Internet filtering and censorship in more than three dozen countries that criticizes China for pervasive attempts to control political expression on the Web has gained the support of several activist researchers.

Most of the computers used to control the virus appeared to be run from Hainan, where the Chinese government operates a signals intelligence center, the report said.

But the researchers have yet to definitively prove such breaches and have acknowledged that alternative explanations are possible.

The Chinese, as well as the United States, Israel and Britain are known to have sophisticated electronic spy capabilities.

The new report details a far-reaching campaign to infiltrate the computer networks of China's critics and their allies, including Tibetan exile groups and Taiwan trade organizations.

The Chinese spokesman Qin said the attempts of these people to use rumors to vilify China would never succeed.

A private think tank and a research center affiliated with the international studies school at the University of Toronto took part in the study.


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