Hot on the Chinese hacker trail

Robert Clark
23 Feb 2010

The press leaks from those on the trail of the China Google hackers are coming thick and fast.

That doesn’t mean they make sense as a whole.

The Wall Street Journal today says investigators have fingered “an Asian hacking group” - most likely Chinese - as responsible for the attacks on Google and other companies.

The Financial Times Monday said the probe had identified a “freelance security consultant in his 30s” as the author of the exploit that used an Internet Explorer security hole.

The two anonymously-sourced stories may be talking about different parts of the same investigation - or it could be referring to two separate attacks.

According to the Journal, many investigators are focusing on a group that uses Chinese computer systems to mount its attacks. It has a history of primarily attacking corporations – not the military or other government agencies.

“The group is thought to be smaller because, unlike some of its competitors, these hackers tend to infect fewer machines and attack more surgically—stealing specific data, rather than vacuuming up anything they find,” WSJ said.

The FT story said Chinese officials had “special access” to the work of the freelance author, who had posted pieces of the program to a hacking forum and described it as something he was working on.

The two reports come hard on the heels of a New York Times story that said investigators had traced the attacks to computers in the Shanghai Jiaotong University and the Lanxiang Vocational College in Shandong.

Chinese websites mocked the accusations at Lanxiang, which primarily trains as hairdressers and chefs, although there was no comment on Jiaotong, one of the country’s leading centers for computer science.

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