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Security Researchers Uncover Cyber Espionage Network Invloving 103 Countries

A report released over the weekend by Information Warfare Monitor along with an exclusive story by the New York Times, revealed a 10-month investigation of a suspected cyber espionage network (dubbed GhostNet) of over 1,295 infected computers in 103 countries. 30% of the infected computers are labeled as high-value targets, including ministries of foreign affairs, embassies, international organizations, news media, and NGOs.

Greg Walton, editor of Information Warfare Monitor and a member of the Toronto academic research team that is reporting on the spying operation, writes:

“While our analysis reveals that numerous politically sensitive and high value computer systems were compromised in ways that circumstantially point to China as the culprit, we do not know the exact motivation or the identity of the attacker(s), or how to accurately characterize this network of infections as a whole. One of the characteristics of cyber-attacks of the sort we document here is the ease by which attribution can be obscured.

Regardless of who or what is ultimately in control of GhostNet, it is the capabilities of exploitation, and the strategic intelligence that can be harvested from it, which matters most. Indeed, although the Achilles’ heel of the GhostNet system allowed us to monitor and document its far-reaching network of infiltration, we can safely hypothesize that it is neither the first nor the only one of its kind.”

Graphic illustrates the global reach of the GhostNet. There were 1,295 infected computers that reported to the control server. The
infections were spread across 103 countries. Taiwan reported the most infections followed by the United States, Vietnam and India. Source: Information Warfare Monitor

It is also reported that the earliest infected computer called home to the control server on May 22, 2007. The most recent entry recorded in the sample data is March 12, 2009.

Related Links:
Tracking GhostNet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network
Vast Spy System Loots Computers in 103 Countries  NYT
Meet the Canadians who busted GhostNet Text, Audio Interview, Globe and Mail

Updates:  UPDATED Mar 31, 2009 3:00 PM PDT
China rejects computer spy claims as "ghost of Cold War" Reuters, Mar.31.2009

By CircleID Reporter

CircleID’s internal staff reporting on news tips and developing stories. Do you have information the professional Internet community should be aware of? Contact us.

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