Chinese hackers have obtained confidential information from the home computer of Huang Mo-hsin, a chief prosecutor at the Taipei district prosecutor's office, on at least four top cases, said Next magazine.
Among the cases was that of an alleged spy for China in Taiwan's presidential office as well as a diplomatic scandal implicating former president Chen Shui-bian's right-hand man Chiou I-jen, it said.
The weekly cited unnamed sources as saying that the National Security Bureau first spotted the cyber-attacks in June and instructed that Huang's computer be reprogrammed to stem any further leak of information. The prosecutor's office was not immediately available for comment. The report came after the bureau said Monday it was targeted by nearly half a million cyber-attacks a month, only a minority from China and around 60 percent from the island itself. In the 10 months to October, Chinese hackers launched 598,000 attacks, or 12 percent of a total of 4.99 million attacks, while six in 10 attacks came from within the island.Taiwan's government websites have frequently come under cyber-attack from China, usually during disputes between the island and the mainland. The two sides split in 1949 at the end of a civil war, but Beijing still claims the island as part of its territory. But ties have improved markedly since Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan's president in 2008 on a Beijing-friendly platform.
There's nothing secret about these Chinese cyber thugs. Four years ago, China organized a civilian Cyber War force. It's called the "Red Hackers Alliance" (RHA) and is officially a network security organization, composed of patriotic Chinese network security experts. China does have a major problem with network security, as the average Chinese PC user is much less well equipped, in terms of protective software, and expertise, to protect their computers, than their Western counterparts. Computer viruses and worms that are a minor nuisance in the West, are often major problems in China.
The RHA has a paid staff, including university trained network security experts. Officially, the RHA provides training and advice about network security. But the RHA has also apparently absorbed the thousands of Chinese hackers who used to belong to informal hacker organizations. These groups often openly launched Cyber War attacks against foreign targets. One of the more notorious examples of this was in the Spring of 2001, when outraged Chinese hackers went after American targets in the wake of a Chinese fighter crashing, after colliding with an American P-3 patrol aircraft. American hackers fought back, and apparently there was more damage on the Chinese side. This offended the Chinese hackers a great deal, and they vowed to not fail in the future. In the wake of the 2001 incident, the Chinese hacker organizations began to disband, even though they were the source of more serious, espionage related, hacking. The government apparently liked the talent of the Chinese hackers, but not their lack of discipline. Although the older hacker groups had liaison with the government, this was not enough to prevent "adventurism." The RHA is apparently the solution to that problem, and is yet another addition to China's growing Cyber War apparatus.
China has over 30,000 people involved in monitoring people using the Internet in China, as well as other organizations that are developing Cyber War weapons and defenses. This effort to organize Chinese hackers, for a network security effort, may be more successful than attempts to control their more playful activities. Hacking is all about spontaneity and, well, some misbehavior.
China does not want to alienate it's hacker community. Having the hackers on your side, in such an enthusiastic fashion, is rare, and a major advantage. But at the same time, ongoing government efforts to control Internet use angers many hackers. If the RHA officials lean on the hackers too much and too often, China may find that it has created a monster it has angered, and cannot control. Thus the need to turn the hackers loose on a "foreign enemy" periodically.
The U.S. report described how the Chinese are becoming more aggressive, with the Chinese government continuing to insist that it has nothing to do with any of these accusations and dismissing the growing body of evidence that indicates otherwise.