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Wire Leak: Chinese Nationally-Funded Hackers

Although the leaked 2009 State Department wire message will bring scrutiny to Chinese hackers, three things stood out.

First, language in the wire looks familiar:

CNITSEC enterprises was said to has recruited Chinese hackers in support of nationally-funded “network attack scientific research projects.”

China is not the only country to recruit hackers. Remember when the press release announced “Hacker ‘Mudge’ gets DARPA job”? He was quoted as saying “I want to be at the sharp pointy end of the stick.” Imagine if a Chinese hacker had said that to the press…actually, imagine if anyone going into a military role said that in any country.

The point here, no pun intended, is that countries frequently recruit experts from industry, and have done so for quite a while (as LinkedIn members often boast).

Even more to the point, the US military has only just announced cybersecurity as part of basic training, as explained in “US Air Force Recruits Train to Become Cyber Warriors”. With the Air Force only just starting to train from within, it likely will be years before they can avoid hiring from outside.

The Chinese hiring outside hackers is probably taken by many to be a sign of intent or motive, but to me it signals more that they lack talent within.

Second, the timing is interesting:

From June 2002 to March 2003, TOPSEC employed a known Chinese hacker, Lin Yong (a.k.a. Lion and owner of the Honker Union of China), as senior security service engineer to manage security service and training. Venus Tech, another CNITSEC enterprise privy to the GSP, is also known to affiliate with XFocus, one of the few Chinese hacker groups known to develop exploits to new vulnerabilities in a short period of time, as evidenced in the 2003 release of Blaster Worm (See CTAD Daily Read File (DRF) April 4, 2008)

March 2003 was only a month after Bill Gates signed major trade agreements with China. It also was about half a year before Microsoft gave the Chinese access to its source code for “security” purposes.

Chinese hacker and company “affiliations” with Microsoft could sound ominous in some ways, but in 2003 the company openly traded and gave access to Chinese security experts. That gives a different spin to the wire and again emphasizes that China lacked talent within. They relied on experts in the field with unusually close ties to Microsoft.

Third, although this is a wire leak and not a press-release, I am reminded of when the Japanese media were said to be using reports of Honker (hacking group said to be nationally affiliated with China) activity and threats to “make China look bad”.

Posted in Security.

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