Chinese hackers are reported to have attacked Belgian government
Sophos, a world leader in IT security and control, has reminded
businesses of the importance of properly securing their computer
systems following claims by Belgian ministers that Chinese hackers
are targeting their country's computer systems.
According to media reports,
Justice Minister Jo Vandeurzen has claimed that hacking attacks
against the Belgian Federal Government have originated in China,
and are likely to have been at the bequest of the Beijing
Separately, Belgian minister of foreign affairs Karel De Gucht
has told parliament that his ministry was the subject of
cyberespionage by Chinese agents several weeks ago.
Experts at SophosLabs™ warn
that all businesses and organisations, not just governments, need
to defend themselves from the threat of cybercrime.
"There simply isn't enough evidence to say whether these attacks
were sponsored by the Chinese government or not, but these reports
do underline the importance of everyone making computer security a
priority," said Graham
Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Cyberhackers
can cover their tracks, leapfrogging from computer to computer
around the world, making it very hard to determine precisely who is
behind an attack. Governments need to think carefully before
accusing another of spying via the internet unless they have strong
proof. There is no doubt, however, of the importance of securing
critical computers inside government from hackers whether motivated
by politics, espionage or money."
There has been speculation that China may be interested in
spying on Belgium because NATO and the European Union have
headquarters in the country. It has also been suggested that China
may be interested in exploring Belgium's historical connections
with Central Africa.
Sophos experts report that Belgium is not the only country said
to have been the alleged focus of attention by Chinese hackers.
In September 2007, the Chinese military were blamed
for a cyberattack which targeted a Pentagon computer system serving
the office of US defense secretary Robert Gates. Unnamed sources
are said to have told the Financial Times that the
People's Liberation Army (PLA) were accused of perpetrating the
attempted hack. Media reports in The
Guardian claimed that the British and German governments have
also been subject to similar probes by hackers working for the
Three years ago, Sophos reported how
it had helped the National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination
Centre (NISCC) analyze Trojan horses which had targeted government
departments and British businesses. Much of the malware was thought
to have originated from China.
"Spying has been going on between countries for thousands of
years, and it would be naive to think that countries would not use
computers and the internet to help them," continued Cluley. "It is
unusual, however, for a nation to accuse another of engaging in
this activity - especially when it can be extraordinarily difficult
to prove an attack is being sponsored by a government or is a lone
hacker acting independently."
Sophos does believe China to have an important part to play in
the global fight against cybercrime. Research reveals that country
presently accounts for
30.1% of the world's malware-infected webpages, second only to
Experts note that it is not just China which has been accused of
using the internet to spy on other nations. Late last month it was
alleged that the BND - Germany's foreign intelligence service -
had used spyware to monitor the Ministry of Commerce and Industry
Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can control network access and defend
against the threats of spam, hackers, spyware and viruses.
Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.