By Jane Macartney in Beijing
December 5, 2007
China issued a furious response yesterday to a report in The Times that
Chinese agencies were spying on British companies via the internet.
The report on Saturday said that the Director-General of MI5 had sent
letters to 300 executives and security chiefs at banks, accounting and
legal firms warning them that Chinese state agencies were hacking into
their systems and trying to steal confidential information.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said yesterday: The Chinese
Government has always opposed any internet crimes, including hacking
which is an international problem.
Qin Gang added: We express strong dissatisfaction. It is a very
China has lodged a formal protest, claiming that the report was
slanderous and prejudiced and ignored the political, economic and social
progress made by the country. It also alleged that the report was an
attempt to put obstacles in the way of improved ties between Britain and
Gordon Brown is expected to make an official visit to Beijing in
January. There was no indication that the report would result in those
plans being delayed.
The Times reported that the letter from Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5,
had told recipients how to identify Chinese Trojans e-mails carrying
software designed to hack into a computer network and feed back
confidential data. People who had seen the letter told The Times that
the security forces believed companies doing business in China were
under particular threat from hackers. The hackers are thought to include
specialists with links to the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA).
Computer experts have also accused hackers connected to the Chinese
military of carrying out cyber attacks on the Pentagon, the British
Parliament and the German Chancellery.
Analysts who monitor the activities of the highly secretive PLA said
that the cyber spies were careful to cover their tracks to conceal any
links to the Chinese authorities, particularly the military.
Hackers are usually based outside China in Russia, Central Asia and in
Europe and are not directly tied to the PLA but are manipulated or
managed through other agencies.
Andrew Yang, the secretary-general of the Taiwan-based Chinese Council
of Advanced Policy Studies and an expert on the PLA, told The Times:
Information warfare in China is mostly conducted by the private sector
so it is difficult to identify who is really behind this.
He described the methods as highly decentralised but employing systems
to ensure that any information garnered got back to state security
organisations in China. For its part, China has not only denied that it
is engaged in any cyber crime but also claimed that its own networks had
also been targeted.
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