“We’ve been following these Chinese hackers for so long, we can track their daily work schedule,” said the expert, who asked not to be identified. “People expect hackers to be night owls, but these guys work very normal hours — on Chinese national holidays, for example, we don’t see any hacking activity at all.”
However, tracking the exact source of the attacks remains a slippery game of Internet sleuth.
“We take the IP address culled from the attack as a springboard, then track it through the Internet — perhaps the same IP address was used in a forum registration, or to register a QQ handle,” he said, referring to a popular Chinese chat program. “It depends how good they are at covering their tracks.”
China denies being behind hacking attacks on other nations and insists it is a major victim of cyberattacks, including from the US — an argument that Beijing sees as strengthened by revelations last month from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about top-secret US electronic surveillance programs.
The US and China held talks focused on cyberissues last week.
According to Internet platform Akamai, 27 percent of worldwide hacking activity last year originated in China. However, the same report also placed Taiwan among the top five digital attack originating countries last year.
“Taiwan is one of the key countries where we see a lot of activity,” Singapore-based malware researcher Chong Rong Hwa of network security firm FireEye Inc said.
A report issued by SecureWorks, a network safety arm of PC maker Dell Inc, said the Taiwanese government’s ministries are swarming with a particularly malicious form of data-nabbing computer virus.
In one year, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau encountered more than 3 million hacking attempts from China, according to statements given by bureau director Tsai Der-sheng (蔡得勝) in March in response to questions from lawmakers.
Military and technology intelligence was included among the pilfered data.
“Taiwan will continue to be the battleground for lots of cyberattacks; it’s like we are on our own,” Wu said. “China has a huge pool of talent and technical resources.”