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« Opening Remarks | Main | CTlab Symposium: Wired for War, additional readings »

Wired for Espionage

With apologies to Peter Singer:

News has broken today that a joint operation between an Ottawa-based think tank, SecDev Group, and the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Affairs at the University of Toronto, has broken a rather murky cyber-espionage network centred in China.  It appears that this espionage network's primary target was the Dalai Lama, as well as other Tibetan exiles around the world.  Indeed, organisations, governments, and private citizens in upwards of 103 countries were targeted.

One of the researchers, Greg Walton, said: "We uncovered real-time evidence of malware that had penetrated Tibetan computer systems, extracting sensitive documents from the private office of the Dalai Lama."  All the more interesting is that the spy network was both rather small-scale and technologically unsophisticated.  Amongst the compromised targets: the foreign affairs ministries of Iran, Bangladesh, Latvia, Indonesia, Brunei, Barbados, and Bhutan.  The Chinese embassies of India, South Korea, Indonesia, Romania, Cyprus, Malta, Thailand, Taiwan, Portugal, Germany, and Pakistan were all compromised.  So, too, were the servers of the ASEAN Secretariat, the Asian Development Bank, and various news organisations.  Finally, the Dalai Lama's Tibetan exile centres in New York, London, Brussels, and various locations in India were infiltrated.  

But, before we get too excited, I should note that whilst the location of the espionage is in China, the researchers have so far been unable to figure out the exact location and/or identity of the hackers.  On the other hand, the Dalai Lama is one of the Chinese government's favourite punching bags, and the comments from Chinese officials in response to this story make me wonder.  The Chinese Consulate in New York City dismissed the report, calling it "fantasy," "old stories," and "nonsense."  And, I might add the Peter Singer himself reminds us that the Chinese military has an entire "cyberwarfare" division with a staff of 6,000 hackers. 


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