MI5 is reported to have accused China of sponsoring hackers to spy
on British companies.
IT security and control firm Sophos has reminded organizations
of the importance of properly securing their computer networks
following news reports that British firms have been warned by MI5
of the threat posed by Chinese hackers. According to a report in
The Times, the UK Security Service sent a confidential letter
to banks, accountants and law firms warning that they are under
attack from "Chinese state organisations."
Jonathan Evans, the Director-General of MI5, is said to have
written to 300 chief executives and security chiefs at British
companies warning them of the "electronic espionage attack."
"Spying has been going on between countries for thousands of
years, and it would be foolish to think that countries would not
take advantage of computers and the internet to assist them in
this," said Graham
Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "It is,
however, unusual for a country to so openly 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 noted earlier this year that 30% of all
malware is now written in China, most of it taking the form of
Trojans used for gaining a backdoor into users' computers. Perhaps
surprisingly, Sophos revealed that 17% of the malicious code
written in China is not designed to steal confidential information
from businesses, but to phish passwords from online gamers.
"Wherever an attack may be originating, businesses need to
ensure they are properly defended," explained Cluley. "Up-to-date
anti-virus software, firewalls, and security patches are a must.
protection against zero-day attacks and network access control
are also invaluable."
Sophos experts note that this is not the first time that the
Chinese authorities have been accused of cyber-espionage.
In September 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 blamed in an internal
investigation for perpetrating the attempted hack. Media reports in
Guardian claimed that the British and German governments have
also been subject to similar probes by hackers working for the
Two 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.
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.