“Do you want to knock an entire country off the Internet?” he asked.
The Chinese Ministry of Defense reiterated comments last week that it “never supported any hacking attacks.”
Ryan Sherstobitoff, a researcher with computer security firm McAfee, said “it’s hard to pinpoint the origin” of the attacks because computer traffic can be routed through various locations.
However, he said the overwhelming majority of computer infiltrations come from employees mistakenly opening booby-trapped e-mail attachments faked to appear as if they are from a colleague.
This technique, known as “spear phishing,” instals malware on the recipients computer that can remain on a network and allow hackers to view or control data.
“There is certainly a rise in the numbered of these targeted attacks,” Sherstobitoff said.
The Times said hackers stole corporate passwords and targeted the computers of 53 employees in response to the newspaper’s investigation into the vast wealth amassed by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s (溫家寶) family.
The newspaper said Bloomberg News was also targeted by Chinese hackers, and the Beijing correspondent of Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper said he had been hacked in 2011 in an effort to find China-related files.
Jody Westby, a cybersecurity consultant and adjunct faculty member at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said the attacks “shine a glaring spotlight on the inadequacies of US diplomacy in addressing cyberthreats.”
Andrew Mertha, a specialist on China at Cornell University, said the cyberspying highlights Beijing’s awkward efforts to extend its global influence.