A six-second clip on Chinese state television has provided a rare glimpse into purported cyber hacking attacks launched by the country’s military, despite long-standing official denials that the government engages in such activity.
In a program titled The Internet Storm is Here, CCTV-7, China’s official military channel, had experts discussing the different methods of cyber attacks and US cyber operations.
About halfway through the 20-minute program, a user is seen to operate a cursor on a screen that displays two options, a “www denial-of-service attack” and “distributed denial-of-service attack.” A denial-of-service attack is a basic hacking attack that brings down a Web site by spamming it with data.
The screen then changes, showing a box with the words “select attack target” and “input target IP address.” A scrolling marquee at the top of the box reads “China’s People’s Liberation Army [PLA] Electronic Engineering Academy.”
The user then selects Minghui.org, a Web site of the banned spiritual sect Falun Gong, from a dropdown menu containing a list of other Falun Gong sites and clicks the “attack” button.
It is unclear if the program on the screen shown is a mock-up, or when the clip was filmed, but China has consistently denied having anything to do with hacking attacks.
The existence of the piece, which appears to have been shown last month, was reported on Wednesday by China SignPost Web site, which said it was “visual evidence” to undermine China’s official denials of involvement in hacking.
As of midday yesterday, the page with the clip on Chinese state television’s Web site was no longer accessible.
The US says that many hacking attacks appear to come from China, often targeting human rights groups as well as US companies.
In its annual report to the US Congress on China’s military on Wednesday, the Pentagon warned that hacking attacks from China could one day be used for overt military means, rather than just trying to access data.
“The accesses and skills required for those intrusions are similar to those necessary to conduct computer network attacks,” the report said. “Developing capabilities for cyber warfare is consistent with authoritative PLA military writings.”
Google, the world’s largest search engine, partially pulled out of China last year after concerns of censorship and a serious hacking episode.
Google, which said the attacks originated in China, was one of the dozens of high profile companies targeted in an ultra-sophisticated cyber attack named “Operation Aurora” that took place in the second half of 2009. Yahoo, Adobe and Dow Chemicals were also reportedly amongst the targets.
In June this year, Google said its Gmail product had suffered a cyber attack originating in China that was aimed at stealing passwords and information from high level US government officials and Chinese activists.
China says it too is a victim of hacking.
The cyber attacks add to the long list of tensions between the US and China that span trade issues, human rights, the value of the yuan and Taiwan.