New and Improved Hacker Methods in China

December 30, 2015

We learn from an article at Yahoo News that, “On China’s Fringes, Cyber Spies Raise Their Game.” Reporters Clare Baldwin, James Pomfret, and Jeremy Wagstaff report that hackers backed by China are using some unique methods, according to Western security experts. Search is but a tiny part of this approach but, perhaps not surprisingly, cloud storage is a factor. The article relates:

“Hackers have expanded their attacks to parking malware on popular file-sharing services including Dropbox and Google Drive to trap victims into downloading infected files and compromising sensitive information. They also use more sophisticated tactics, honing in on specific targets through so-called ‘white lists’ that only infect certain visitors to compromised websites. Security experts say such techniques are only used by sophisticated hackers from China and Russia, usually for surveillance and information extraction. The level of hacking is a sign, they say, of how important China views Hong Kong, where 79 days of protests late last year brought parts of the territory, a major regional financial hub, to a standstill. The scale of the protests raised concerns in Beijing about political unrest on China’s periphery. ‘We’re the most co-ordinated opposition group on Chinese soil, (and) have a reasonable assumption that Beijing is behind the hacking,’ said Lam Cheuk-ting, chief executive of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, which says it has been a victim of cyber attacks on its website and some members’ email accounts.”

Officially, China’s Defense Ministry denies any connection to the attacks, but that is nothing new. The adaptation of new hacking techniques is part of a continuing cycle; as journalists, scholars, and activists improve their security, hackers adapt. See the article for specifics on some attacks attributed to China-backed hackers, as well as some ways activists are trying to stay ahead.

Cynthia Murrell, December 30, 2015

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