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Communist cyber spies are right beside you

April 6, 2009

By Hsu Chien-jung ???
Taipei Times
April 4, 2009, Page 8

"Communist spies are right beside you" was once a
common warning of the Chinese Nationalist Party
(KMT). How many spies China has gathering
information on Taiwan remains a mystery.

Toward the end of last month, the National
Security Bureau said there were more than 4,000
Chinese nationals whose whereabouts became unknown after entering Taiwan.

One thing we can be sure of, however, is that
communist spies are not only around us in our
daily lives. It is even more likely that they are getting into our computers.

After becoming suspicious that its computers may
have been penetrated by cyber spies and that
information had been stolen, the Tibetan
government-in-exile commissioned Canada’s
Information Warfare Monitor to research the matter.

An article in the New York Times last Saturday
quoted the Information Warfare Monitor report as
saying that in less than two years, at least
1,295 computers in government departments in 103
countries around the globe had been penetrated by
Internet hackers, including computers at
locations belonging to the Tibetan government-in-exile.

GHOSTNET

The report called the hacking system "GhostNet"
and said there were three servers controlling it
in China -- located in Sichuan, Guangdong and
Hainan provinces — and another in California.

The report also said hackers had penetrated
government departments in Taiwan, though the
government’s response was that it had discovered no such attacks.

This response was not surprising at a time when
the government is emphasizing "harmony" across the Taiwan Strait.

Also last month, Shishir Nagaraja, a researcher
from the University of Illinois, and Ross
Anderson, a researcher from Cambridge University,
released a report entitled The Snooping Dragon:
Social-Malware Surveillance of the Tibetan Movement.

In the report they accused cyber spies based in
Sichuan Province of stealing computer information
from the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In addition, China has blocked the vast majority
of blogs on the Web; Internet users are unable to
access blog sites such as Roodo, Pixnet, Yam,
Wretch, Xuite and Blogspot, which are frequently used in Taiwan.

ONLINE ELITE

If a blogger sets up a blog-visitor tracking
device such as ClustrMaps on his or her site and
receives information saying that viewers in China
are viewing their site, it is safe to assume that
the visitors are part of an online elite that are
still able to access blogs and other restricted Web sites.

It is estimated that there are at least 300,000 of these people in China.

China has blocked YouTube, for example, but
messages left by Chinese Internet users can still
be seen on the site, attacking videos that
criticize the country’s democracy and human rights record.

If we look close enough, we will also see that as
soon as comments appear on any Taiwanese Web site
in support of Tibet, a response criticizing Tibet
will appear almost immediately.

More often than not, the IP address of the user
that leaves the comment is located in China.

What do these examples tell us?

The same thing the KMT used to warn us: "Communist spies are right beside you."

Hsu Chien-jung is a doctoral candidate at Monash University in Australia.

TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON

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