Investigators in several countries say they have uncovered a global “ghost net” of cyber-espionage, with major centers in three Chinese provinces and a foothold in California. Just one of the group’s alleged cyber-spies is said to have created a system that hacked into 30,000 computers per day. The investigation began with a probe into alleged hacking of computers used by the Dalai Lama in exile in India.
Computers —including machines at NATO, governments and embassies— are infected with software that lets attackers gain complete control of them, cyber-security experts alleged in two reports Sunday.
So far, there are no official accusations against the Chinese state, but the targets of the GhostNet hackers suggest that interests of the state may have motivated the network’s creation in some way. “In spite (of being a) big nation, they act like (a) very weak nation”, said the Dalai Lama through a translator.
Beijing denies involvement and says the issue is being exaggerated by “the West” for political purposes. A Canadian report entitled “Tracking GhostNet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network” suggested the rapid increase in Chinese cyber spying could be attributed to “The sheer number of young digital natives online” and spontaneous hacking activity. The report also notes that:
Chinese cyber espionage is a major global concern… (b)ut attributing all Chinese malware to deliberate or targeted intelligence gathering operations by the Chinese state is wrong and misleading…
The revelations have raised concerns about the need for global regulations that would prevent both governments and private interests from using the web as a means of interfering in individuals’ private lives or conducting potentially dangerous espionage on governments and corporate and financial interests. A key concern is that the web must remain open and unfiltered, but that actions must be taken to crack down on cyber-spying, identity theft or global espionage, without restricting individual freedoms or freedom of information.