Chinese authorities have claimed that recent disruptions to nationwide internet services can be traced to overseas hackers. According to the authorities, it was the hack that prevented users from accessing a number of popular foreign websites.
Last week, millions of internet users in China got redirected to a Polish couple’s travel blog when visiting several popular websites. Chinese users complained that attempts to visit sites including cnn.com and yahoo.cop.jp were being redirected to travel side ‘ptraveler.com’.
The incident was the latest in a series of hurdles that businesses and individual users have faced while going online in the world’s second largest economy.
Victim or an internal gaffe?
China is usually accused of hacking other countries and limiting its own citizens’ access to technology. Even recently, the country was accused of affecting traffic between Chinese citizens and US Services. The country however, have always claimed that it is the frequent target and the regular victim.
Local news source China Daily reported on information released by the Chinese equivalent of CERT, the National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team Coordination Centre, that China itself has been targeted by hackers. An insider at the Chinese CERT told China Daily that the attack was unusual and employed by a unique method.
“It was a rather strange case because the hackers were directly targeting the telecom carriers’ servers. It has rarely happened before,” said the source.
“China Telecom was the biggest victim because it is the largest internet service provider. It is impossible to estimate the damage at the moment.”
The Centre said that, while China has a relatively resilient security curtain, it is frequently attacked and is showing signs of weakness.
“We are following the new US cyber security strategy and concerned about it. The report makes groundless accusations about China, and we resolutely oppose it,” said Chinese defence ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng earlier this week.
The English-language China Daily, citing the National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team Coordination Center, the agency that monitors China’s Internet safety, said the redirection happened because some servers in China were “contaminated” by malware from overseas servers.
“Experts said it will be difficult to trace the source of the attack because it is technically possible to carry it out by remotely controlling the servers,” the newspaper said. “No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack,” it said.
Internet services operated by popular websites such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter, to name a few are unusable in China. The country operates the world’s most sophisticated censorship firewall in order to quell sources of information the ruling Communist Party sees as potentially destabilizing or undermining its rule in the country.