The latest annual security report from McAfee has singled
as a particularly virulent source of international cyber espionage, with a
number of Western nations said to have experienced significant episodes in
the past year. However, there is evidence to suggest that a far more sinister
online threat could be around the corner from nations other than China
- state sponsored cyber attacks on vital infrastructure.
According to McAfee's
Virtual Criminology Report China
is not the only nation engaging in cyber spying and attacks on other
“There are signs that intelligence agencies around the world are constantly
probing other governments’ networks looking for strengths and weaknesses and
developing new ways to gather intelligence,” says Peter Sommer,
an expert in information systems and innovation at the London School of
Economics, in a quote from the report.
However, intelligence gathered by Western agencies and researchers, including
NATO, the FBI, SOCA, the Center for Education and Research in Information
Assurance and Security (CERIAS), the International Institute for Counter
-Terrorism in Israel and the London School of Economics, as well as some
unverified reports in the press, indicate that China is believed to have
launched cyber attacks or probes on the US, Germany, India and Australia and
New Zealand.Some of these alleged attacks, which of
course the Chinese Government vehemently denies, were actually quite serious
Aside from the expected alleged hack into the US Pentagon computers to steal
military secrets, a massive operation launched from China reportedly hacked
into German Government systems and siphoned off large volumes of data before
being blocked, the email accounts of hundreds of Indian Government Ministers
were and are still being raided by Chinese dial up Internet connections, and
Chinese hackers allegedly tried to break into Australian and New Zealand
highly classified Government computer networks.
According to details in the McAfee report, the scale and nature of the
Chinese attacks suggested that they were not launched by private
However, hacking to steal state secrets is only one potential threat outlined
by the McAfee report. The report suggests that an even more sinister threat
that amounts to nothing less than cyber warfare could be awaiting the free world
"Evidence suggests that governments and government-allied groups are now
using the Internet for espionage and cyberattacks
on the critical national infrastructure (financial markets, utility
providers, air traffic control) of other countries. There were more reported
cases in 2007 than any previous year. This growing threat is acknowledged by
the United States Department of Defense," the McAfee report states.
This year, according to the report, Estonia experienced distributed
denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on government,
news and bank servers for several weeks. The incidents followed the removal
of a Soviet statue from a central Tallinn
Square to the outskirts of the city. At the
height of these attacks, 20,000 networks of compromised computers were
linked, and analysis of the malicious traffic showed that computers from the United States, Canada,
Brazil, Vietnam and others were involved.
The Estonian Government blamed Russia
for instigating the attacks, while Russia denies involvement.
“The whole sequence of events (in Estonia) looked a lot like the sort of
thing a government would do in order to check how much it could get away
with. The whole thing bears the hallmark of a ‘false flag’ operation. We’ve
seen terrorists carry out such ‘defense-probes’ ahead of physical attacks,”
Ms Yael Shahar, International Institute for
stated in the report.