In recent weeks, the Chinese have been accused not only of hacking the Pentagon, but also several German ministries and key sites in the UK, as well. In doing research for an upcoming story on the Pentagon attacks, I stumbled upon recent reports in Germany of surprisingly similar activity.
Germany's Federal Office for Information has identified malicious trojan-based attacks on government computers, attacks which some members of the German government say appear to originate from within the Chinese Army.
The story was first reported by German-language newspaper Spiegel Online, which said that investigators had found evidence of "Chinese espionage programs" on computers in several government agencies, including the office of German chancellor Angela Merkel. Federal Office for Information Security experts discovered the first spyware trojans months ago and successfully thwarted the transfer of over 160GB of data, according to the report. Chinese officials in Berlin originally criticized the finding as irresponsible speculation when it debuted late last month, but as the drama unfolds, that tune is changing.
Yet as the accusations pile up, it is becoming harder to ignore. The UK's Times Online reported last week that China has also been identified trying to compromise security on government and military computer systems there.
In Germany, the issue of electronic spying isn't just limited to China. Hartwig Möller, head of the constitutional protection authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia, said that Iran has also recently attempted to infiltrate systems to obtain information on nuclear programs, according to Heise.
Nevertheless, all eyes are on China, now that three major players in the global economy have said that the country is almost certainly engaging in computer-based espionage.
Emphasis is my own, as usual.
"...said that Iran has also recently attempted to infiltrate systems to obtain information on nuclear programs." I can only wonder if this is credible information, or more propaganda such as the [false] information leading to the Iraq war.
Given that the media is widely portraying China and Iran as cyber-threats, one can only wonder how long it will be before this turns into an actual war. Reconnaissance is the first essential step in any conflict, and it's already happening. Is this the future of war? Given our increasing reliance on computers and information, a cyber-war could affect everything from military operations to public utilities to governmental function. Banks and large corporations would be high-profile targets, with huge impact. This country would grind to a halt if someone were to disrupt the Federal Reserve Bank.