China denies hacking high-tech weapon maker

Filed Under: Data loss, Featured, Law & order, Malware

China flagWhen news of a hack against Japan's biggest weapons maker, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, broke earlier this week an obvious question was - who might be responsible?

In all, more than 80 computers and servers at the firm - which manufactures everything from warships to space rockets - were infected by malware at a variety of sites. According to some local newspaper reports, a Chinese language script was found in one of the attacks which left computers at a submarine manufacturing plant and a missile manufacturing facility compromised.

The Guardian reports that the claims of Chinese involvement were firmly denied by a spokesman from China's foreign ministry:

"The Chinese government has consistently opposed hacking activities. The law strictly prohibits this. China is one of the main victims of hacking... criticising China as being the source of the hacking attacks is not only baseless, it is also not beneficial for promoting international co-operation for internet security."

Kobe shipyardDefence officials in Tokyo are reported to be fuming that they learnt about the attacks against Mitsubishi Heavy via local media reports more than a month after they took place, rather than directly from the firm itself.

Of course, as we all know, China is routinely blamed for cyberattacks and accused of using the internet to spy on other countries. Just as routinely, China denies its involvement.

Most famously, in January 2010 Google blamed China for an attack (dubbed "Operation Aurora") after discovering that someone in the country had tried to hack into the Gmail accounts of human rights activists.

In other incidents, accusations of China-backed hacking have come from a variety of directions including India, Belgium, the Dalai Lama, the British Secret Service, the US Defense Secretary and the Australian Prime Minister.

The truth is, however, that proving the origin of a hack attack is complicated by the fact that cybercriminals can use compromised PCs owned by innocent people to act as a go-between when trying to break into someone's computer. In other words - yes, a Chinese computer might have tried to connect to yours, but it may be under the control of someone in, say, Great Britain.

We'd be naive to think that the Chinese (and just about every other country around the world) isn't using the internet for its political, commercial and military advantage, but we should be very cautious about making assumptions without having all the proof in front of us.

So far there are no reports of classified information having been exposed by the hack attack at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

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8 Responses to China denies hacking high-tech weapon maker

  1. fhyio · 942 days ago

    This reminds me of a news report that china showed a denial of service designed to target falun gong websites on a military video by accident. The Chinese Communist Party have done a lot of evil things including torture to people who practice falun gong and other peaceful movements.

  2. char1661 · 942 days ago

    I just know this article is going to have a lot of racists. every country does bad things, including america. what do you think the civil war was because of? OK, maybe china does more hacking than other countries. that may or may not be true.

    1. You can't openly blame them for everything.
    2. It doesn't have to be their government. When Americans do something wrong, is our government blamed? OK, maybe the government should do more to stop it, but that doesn't mean they should be directly blamed.
    3. Considering China's population, it is more likely for it to have more hackers/malware writers, and it would be harder for the government to control. Plus, I think USA produces more malware than China.

  3. beaufortninja · 942 days ago

    Japan is a technologically advanced country. It seems like they would be able to launch a counter-cyber attack on such a scale that it would bring all of China down. Why don't they do this? It's about time someone gave China a taste of their own medicine.

    • char1661 · 941 days ago

      give me proof that china is responsible for all the attacks they were blamed for, and then I will agree with these hateful comments. just because the attacks MAY have originated from china, doesn't mean you hate the country. if we were to start a fight over every accusation, there would be wars all the time. so why is my previous comment gone, sophos?

      • johannscv · 873 days ago

        I'm interested in what, exactly, was "hateful" in beaufortninja's comment.

  4. fhyio · 940 days ago

    If its the chinese communist party , then probably definitely, as I know what they are capable of. To me they do not represent the chinese people at all and have only latched and held onto power through devious means.

  5. Think a moment · 940 days ago

    On the subject of falun gong January2010,
    Approach it like an investigation.
    Who has :
    motive &
    Opportunity ..

    A lot of folks may have opportunity, but really who would benefit most?
    Biggest motive is with China I am afraid...

  6. bomb into democracy · 795 days ago

    what is false flag operation mean?

    i heard it is an american specialty, right?

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About the author

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, and veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.