Foreign and Military Affairs

MOD website still under intense attack

Updated: 2010-03-16 23:47
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BEIJING - A chief editor with the official website of China's Ministry of National Defense (MOD),, said Tuesday the site still receives thousands of overseas-based hacking attacks everyday after more than six months of trial operations.

"Although the number of hacking attacks has declined since the first month of trial operations, we are still attacked by Internet hackers everyday," Ji Guilin, chief editor of the ministry's website, told Xinhua.

However, Mr. Ji refused to release a specific total number of hacking attacks so far or the major sources or origins of those attacks due to the sensitive nature of the issue.

But he said most of the overseas visitors to the website's Chinese pages were tracked to IP addresses registered in the U.S., Australia, Singapore, Japan and Canada. While most of the overseas visits to the English pages were tracked to the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom.

The MOD website was unveiled in August last year, an effort, in many analysts' views, by the Chinese government and the 2.3-million-strong People's Liberation Army (PLA) to increase military transparency.

Ji said the website experienced more than 2.3 million attacks by hackers within its first month of operation, most of which attempted to penetrate the site's computer systems and change its homepage.

The website's claims of Internet hacking attacks echoed a military official's comment last month on allegations of the Chinese government's involvement into cyber attacks on foreign companies.

Defense Ministry spokesman Huang Xueping said Chinese networks, especially the military information network, had been a major target for Internet hackers.

The uniformed officer's remark came after former U.S. intelligence officials said the Chinese military was recruiting Internet hackers to break into U.S. government and company computer networks.

Prof. Tan Kaijia, of the PLA's National Defense University, told Xinhua that Chinese military facilities had been targeted by hackers who tried all means to tap into their Internet-wired computers.

Although the PLA's internal computer network is physically isolated from other networks, new technical tools have allowed spies to wirelessly sneak into an electronic device or facility.

"Technically speaking, there is always the possibility of hacking a network from thousands of miles away if it is connected to the Internet, whether or not it has a firewall," Senior Colonel Tan said.

"The alleged Chinese military-backed hacking of US sites proves that  they did not understand the PLA's functions and missions," said Tan, who specializes in military equipment and logistics.

Tan revealed that so far the PLA has not constituted a cyber warfare unit, saying the allegation was mystifying and merely an excuse for the U.S. to strengthen cyber warfare technologies.

"Scenarios of different versions of Chinese hacking have not been rare, since the US is developing its own cyber warfare powers and overestimated the abilities of Chinese Internet users," he said.

Last year, accusations of Chinese hacking into the U.S. Department of Defense network emerged in the U.S. media just before the Pentagon announced the establishment of the new U.S. Cyber Command, which is subordinated to the U.S. Strategic Command and responsible for coordinating computer-network defense and cyber-attack operation.

"The PLA has academic researchers on information warfare, but is not capable of conducting actual cyber-attack operations. Chinese laws prohibit any forms of cyber-attack.

"Nor is the PLA allowed to hire civilian hackers, and hacking foreign government and company networks has nothing to do with the PLA's missions." Tan said.

Civilian networks in China seemed much more vulnerable to hackers. As a result, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology Monday issued a nationwide plan to safeguard the security of domain name systems for government websites and vital networks amid surging Internet security threats and risks.

Last week,  police in central China's Hubei Province destroyed the country's biggest hacker training organization and arrested three people who were suspected of running the Black Hawk Safety Network.

The network was suspected of offering online hacker tools, a crime that was listed in China's Criminal Law last year.

Statistics from the National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team/Coordination Center (CNCERT/CC) reveal about 262,000 Chinese computers were hijacked by Trojan programs tracked to overseas IP addresses in 2009. The top source of the programs, 16.61 percent, were computers based in the United States.

The number of Chinese computers controlled by botnets in 2009 was 837,000. A total of 19,000 overseas-hosted addresses, of which, 22.34 percent were from the U.S., participated in controlling the Chinese computers.