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CYBER WARS
Schmidt book labels China online menace
by Staff Writers
San Francisco (AFP) Feb 1, 2013


Twitter hit by 'sophisticated' cyber attack
San Francisco (AFP) Feb 1, 2013 - Twitter said Friday it was hammered by a "sophisticated" cyber attack similar to those that recently hit major Western news outlets, and that the passwords of about 250,000 users were stolen.

"This attack was not the work of amateurs, and we do not believe it was an isolated incident," Twitter information security director Bob Lord said in a blog post.

Lord referred to an "uptick in large-scale security attacks aimed at US technology and media companies" as he told of Twitter detecting attempts this week to get unauthorized access to data in the firm's network.

The attack coincided with the revelation of several high-profile security breaches. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal said this week that they had been hacked, and pointed to attackers from China.

Twitter did not confirm the source of the intrusion.

But Lord noted that "the attackers were extremely sophisticated, and we believe other companies and organizations have also been recently similarly attacked."

He said that Twitter shut down a live attack as it was in process.

But cyber attackers may have gotten usernames, email addresses, passwords and other data.

As a precaution, Twitter invalidated passwords of accounts at issue and sent people email messages telling them to create new passwords.

Twitter announced in December that the number of active users of the service had topped 200 million, in a sign of soaring growth.

The one-to-many messaging platform is a popular tool used by people around the world to share thoughts, views and news in real time, typically from mobile phones and sometimes in the heart of protests or upheaval.

It was unknown whether the cyberattack on San Francisco-based Twitter was related to high-powered hacker assaults on the Times and the Journal.

The recent series of brazen cyberattacks on America's most high-profile media outlets has revived concerns over Chinese hackers, who analysts say are likely linked to the secretive Beijing government.

The Times and the Journal reported that their computer networks had been compromised, alleging it was an effort by the Chinese government to spy on news media operating in the country.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday that there has been an increase in hacking attacks on both state institutions and private companies.

"The breach at Twitter is yet another wake up call -- have we had enough yet?" said Mike Lloyd, chief technology officer at security firm RedSeal Networks.

"Attackers are clearly a step ahead of most defenders -- it's a war between corporations and data thieves, and we're losing."

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that in his coming book, Google chairman Eric Schmidt brands China an Internet menace that sanctions cyber crime for economic and political gain.

"The New Digital Age" authored by Schmidt in collaboration with Jared Cohen, a former US State Department adviser who now heads a Google Ideas think tank, is due for release by Random House in April.

The book looks at how the Internet impacts culture, commerce, politics and other aspects of life, while depicting China as a powerful and dangerous force in this new world, according to the Journal.

The authors called China the most prolific hacker of foreign companies and the most enthusiastic filterer of information.

"The disparity between American and Chinese firms and their tactics will put both the government and the companies of the United States at a distinct disadvantage," the newspaper quoted the authors as saying in the book.

"The United States will not take the same path of digital corporate espionage" due to stricter laws and the American "sense of fair play," it added.

The book reportedly also points to US flaws, such as Washington's suspected role in a Stuxnet virus that targeted nuclear facilities in Iran and private companies here that sell surveillance technology to oppressive regimes.

Schmidt and his co-author verge on suggesting that Western governments emulate China when it comes to building tight relationships between government interests and moves by technology companies, according to the Journal.

Countries stand to have an advantage if the gear and software they use to get online is made by companies they can trust, the book reportedly argues.

"Where Huawei gains market share, the influence and reach of China grow as well," the Journal quoted the authors as writing.

Despite unscrupulously using Internet technology to its advantage, China will see "some kind of revolution in the coming decades" as citizens armed with digital age gadgets are pitted against tight government controls, the book is said to predict.

Wall Street Journal says also hit by Chinese hackers
Washington (AFP) Feb 01, 2013 - The Wall Street Journal has become the second major US media organization to accuse Chinese hackers of targeting its computers in an apparent effort to spy on journalists covering China.

The announcement on Thursday came a day after The New York Times said hackers, possibly connected to China's military, had infiltrated its computers in response to its expose of the vast wealth amassed by a top leader's family.

The Journal reported that the attacks were "for the apparent purpose of monitoring the newspaper's China coverage" and suggested that Chinese spying on US media has become a "widespread phenomenon."

"Evidence shows that infiltration efforts target the monitoring of the Journal's coverage of China, and are not an attempt to gain commercial advantage or to misappropriate customer information," said a statement from Journal parent Dow Jones, a unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US government had noted an increase in hacking attacks on both state institutions and private companies, and would raise the issue in international forums.

"We have to begin making it clear to not only the Chinese... that the United States is going to be having to take actions to protect not only our governments but our private sector from this kind of illegal intrusion," she said.

"I'd like to see an international forum committed to discussing what to do about this, because everybody's vulnerable.

"We're going to try to get legislation passed, which we were unsuccessful in doing in the last Congress," she told journalists at a briefing to mark the end of her term as America's top diplomat.

The Journal gave no timeline for the attacks but said a network overhaul to bolster security had been completed on Thursday.

"We fully intend to continue the aggressive and independent journalism for which we are known," Dow Jones spokeswoman Paula Keve said.

On Wednesday, the Times reported that hackers had infiltrated computer systems and stolen staff passwords over the past four months.

The effort was particularly focused on the emails of Shanghai bureau chief David Barboza, the newspaper said.

Barboza wrote a story, published October 25, that said close relatives of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had made billions of dollars in business dealings.

"Chinese hackers, using methods that some consultants have associated with the Chinese military in the past, breached The Times's network," the newspaper said, citing a wealth of digital evidence gathered by its security experts.

The Times said the IT consultants believed the attacks "started from the same university computers used by the Chinese military to attack United States military contractors in the past."

Asked for comment on the allegations involving the Wall Street Journal, China's defense ministry referred AFP to a statement it made Thursday saying that the military had "never supported any hacking attacks."

"Cyber-attacks have a transnational and anonymous nature; under such circumstances accusing the Chinese military of launching attacks through the web without irrefutable proof is unprofessional and baseless," it said.

The Times said hackers stole corporate passwords and targeted the computers of 53 employees, including former Beijing bureau chief Jim Yardley, who is now the Times's South Asia bureau chief based in India.

The newspaper said Bloomberg News was also targeted by Chinese hackers, after publishing a report in June on the wealth accumulated by relatives of Xi Jinping. In November, Xi was elevated to leader of the Chinese Communist Party.

The Beijing correspondent of Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper, Mark MacKinnon, meanwhile said he had been hacked in 2011. "Computer expert told me hack targeted at specific China-related files," he wrote on Twitter.

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CYBER WARS
New York Times says victim of Chinese hackers
Washington (AFP) Jan 31, 2013
The New York Times said it had fallen victim to hackers possibly connected to China's military, linking the sophisticated attacks to its expose of the vast wealth amassed by Premier Wen Jiabao's family. China, which has blocked the US newspaper's website ever since its report on Wen's relatives came out in October, said it was "groundless" to suggest any state-endorsed program of hacking. ... read more


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