Cyber Spy System Loots Computers in 103 Countries
A suspected cyber spy network that has stolen confidential information from the private office of the Dalai Lama and over 100 countries has been uncovered by researchers in Toronto. They include high-value targets, including ministries of foreign affairs, embassies, international organizations, news media, and NGOs.
The researchers, who are based at the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto, had been asked by the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader whom China regularly denounces, to examine its computers for signs of malicious software, or malware.
Their sleuthing opened a window into a broader operation that, in less than two years, has infiltrated at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices, as well as the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London and New York.
The spying could be a nonstate, for-profit operation, for example, or one run by private citizens in China known as “patriotic hackers.” “We’re a bit more careful about it, knowing the nuance of what happens in the subterranean realms,” said Ronald J. Deibert, a member of the research group and an associate professor of political science at Munk. “This could well be the C.I.A. or the Russians. It’s a murky realm that we’re lifting the lid on.”
The compromised computers included, among many others, the ministry of foreign affairs of Iran; the embassies of India, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Portugal, Germany and Pakistan; the ASEAN Secretariat; the Asian Development Bank; news organizations and an unclassified computer located at NATO headquarters.
Their findings, Tracking GhostNet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network, can be downloaded here.
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