Cyber Espionage isn’t sexy like James Bond. But then, are any spies really as sexy as the movies make them out to be? That may be something we never know. Certainly terms like “computer hacking” doesn’t sound very sexy. However, one thing we do know about cyber espionage – whether you call it computer hacking or outright stealing – is that it is growing.
Earlier this year there was the Google and China controversy. Investigation revealed that hundreds of U.S. and European G-mail users had their accounts violated by a Chinese source. What made this violation most suspect, and ring of political espionage, was that all of the account holders were known human rights advocates.
Apparently the Chinese are at it again. Now the Canadians, with some help from the U.S., have discovered a huge China-based espionage gang which has been stealing documents from businesses, governments, and academic institutions alike. Most of the documents stolen were taken from the Indian Defense Ministry.
Much of the discovery was made through the University of Toronto’s Munk Center for Global Affairs. Ron Deibert, the Director there, says “There is a vast, subterranean ecosystem to cyberspace within which criminal and espionage networks thrive.”
The Munk Center worked jointly with the Shadowserver Foundation, a U.S. organization which focuses on criminal internet activity, on this project. Shawdowserver came into being during a prior investigation of cyber espionage coming out of China. That prior investigation was labeled “Ghostnet” and also led to a discovery of espionage out of China.
It is from those prior leads that the Munk/Shadowserver team was able to build the pieces to finding this current espionage. Through a maze of Twitter, Yahoo, Instagram, Google Groups, Blogspot, and Baidu Blogs, the team found the evidence of spies and assisted in the recovery of the stolen documents. It should be noted that none of these servers were tampered with.
“This would definitely rank in the sophisticated range,” said Steven Adair, a security researcher within Shadowserver. “While we don’t know exactly who’s behind it, we know they selected their targets with great care.”
The Chinese government has denied any role in hacking or espionage.