Reporters operating in Taiwan were among a number of journalists and rights activists whose e-mail accounts were compromised in what appears to have been a coordinated series of attacks uncovered this week.
The development comes on the heels of an announcement by Google that it was moving its Chinese-language search service out of China over censorship concerns.
The problems began last Thursday, when some journalists in Taiwan and China found they were unable to access their Yahoo e-mail accounts.
One Taiwan-based target of the apparent attack told the Taipei Times on Monday that his e-mail account had been “hacked” the previous Wednesday or Thursday, adding that his passwords were changed.
The Taipei Times has since learned that two of its former employees, who still work in the news industry, were among those targeted.
“When I first tried to log onto my account and was denied I got a message that said: ‘Important Message About Your Yahoo! Account. We have detected an issue with your account. To access your account, you must contact Yahoo! Customer Care,’” the journalist told the Taipei Times on condition of anonymity for fear of being the target of renewed attacks.
“They then misspelled the US as ‘Unites States,’ which concerned me because I know that Chinese hackers sometimes send fake messages like this and often misspell words,” he said.
“It was Yahoo that decided to shut down accounts that were being targeted. They [hackers] were poking around Yahoo looking at our account information. Someone in Yahoo raised the red flag and they locked the accounts down,” the reporter said.
“Despite the fact that Yahoo is getting some criticism for not being secure enough ... I think it’s fair to say they were wise enough to protect their customers from an attack. But they should explain it further. There were too many of us who were hit to write it off as a coincidence,” he said.
“It is evident that whomever was behind the attacks, whether government or individuals, it originated most likely in China,” he said.
A current employee at the Taipei Times received a similar warning last Friday, informing her that there were signs of “unauthorized access” in her account, which could only be reactivated on Tuesday after a verification telephone call and change of passwords. Yahoo apologized to the user for the delay, saying it had received “unusually high volumes” of alerts.
Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times in Beijing said his Yahoo Plus account had been set without his knowledge to forward to another, unknown, account.
The compromised accounts include those of the World Uyghur Congress, an exile group that Beijing accuses of inciting “separatism” by Uighurs in Xinjiang.
“I suspect a lot of information in my Yahoo account was downloaded,” the group’s spokesman, Dilxat Raxit, told reporters yesterday. He said the e-mail account, which was set up in Sweden, has been inaccessible for a month.
In late 2009 and early this year, several human rights activists and journalists whose work related to China also discovered their Gmail accounts had been set to forward to unfamiliar addresses, without their knowledge.
Google cited the Gmail attacks in January, when it announced a hacking attack on it and more than 20 other firms. Google cited those attacks and censorship concerns in its decision to move its Chinese-language search services last week to Hong Kong.
Yahoo did not comment on the nature of the attacks, or whether they were coordinated or isolated incidents.
Also See: Vietnam cyber-attacks linked to mining
CALL FOR PEACE: Czech President Petr Pavel raised concerns about China’s military maneuvers in the Taiwan Strait and its ‘unfriendly action’ in the South China Sea The leaders of three diplomatic allies — Guatemala, Paraguay and Palau — on Tuesday voiced support for Taiwan’s inclusion in the UN on the first day of the UN General Debate in New York. In his address during the 78th UN General Assembly, Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr urged the UN and all parties involved in cross-strait issues to exercise restraint and seek a peaceful resolution. “The well-being and prosperity of nations and their economies are intrinsically linked to global peace and stability,” he said. He also thanked partner nations such as Taiwan, Australia, Japan and the US for providing assistance
CROSS-STRAIT CONCERNS: At the same US Congress hearing, Mira Resnick said a US government shutdown could affect weapons sales and licenses to allies such as Taiwan A Chinese blockade of Taiwan would be a “monster risk” for Beijing and likely to fail, while a military invasion would be extremely difficult, senior Pentagon officials told the US Congress on Tuesday. Growing worries of a conflict come as China has ramped up military pressure on Taiwan, holding large-scale war games simulating a blockade on the nation, while conducting near-daily warplane incursions and sending Chinese vessels around its waters. US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner said a blockade would be “a monster risk for the PRC [People’s Republic of China].” “It would likely not succeed, and it
‘HARASSMENT’: A record 103 Chinese warplanes were detected in 24 hours, posing severe challenges to security in the Taiwan Strait and the region, the ministry said Taiwan yesterday told China to stop its “destructive unilateral actions” after more than 100 Chinese warplanes and nine navy ships were detected in areas around the nation. The Ministry of National Defense (MND) described the number of warplanes detected in 24 hours as a “recent high,” while Beijing has so far refrained from issuing any official comment on the sorties. “Between the morning of September 17th to 18th, the Ministry of National Defense had detected a total of 103 Chinese aircraft, which was a recent high and has posed severe challenges to the security across the Taiwan Strait and in the region,”
IMPORTS: Fifty-four million imported eggs with a value of more than NT$200 million had to be destroyed, mostly because they expired in storage facilities Minister of Agriculture Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) last night announced that he would resign from his post. Local media on Sunday reported that Chen had resigned due to controversy over the ministry’s egg import program. Later that same evening, the Executive Yuan said that Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) had asked the minister to stay on to resolve the issue. Chen Chi-chung last night made public his decision to resign on Facebook, saying that this time he would not be dissuaded. Chen Chi-chung earlier yesterday apologized for the furor surrounding the egg import program, but added that misinformation had made the problems worse. The government was