February 1, 2013

N.Y. Times hit by Chinese hackers for months

The infiltrations followed a report on the Chinese premier's family riches, but no sensitive data was lost.

Reuters

BEIJING - The New York Times said Thursday that Chinese hackers had "persistently" attacked its computers over the past four months since the paper published a story on Premier Wen Jiabao, but sensitive material related to the report was not accessed.

New York Times building
click image to enlarge

The facade of the New York Times building, where Chinese hackers were able to access the computers of 53 employees.

Reuters

U.S. ANALYZING CHINA CYBER THREAT, PLANS RESPONSE

The Obama administration is considering more assertive action against Beijing to combat a persistent cyber-espionage campaign it believes Chinese hackers are waging against U.S. companies and government agencies.

As The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that their computer systems had been infiltrated by China-based hackers, cybersecurity experts said the U.S. government is eyeing more pointed diplomatic and trade measures.

Two former U.S. officials said the administration is preparing a new National Intelligence Estimate that, when complete, is expected to detail the cyber threat, particularly from China, as a growing economic problem. One official said it also will cite more directly a role by the Chinese government in such espionage.

Although the administration hasn't yet decided what steps it may take, actions could include threats to cancel certain visas or put major purchases of Chinese goods through national security reviews.

-- The Associated Press

The Times said the attacks coincided with its report last October that Wen's family had accumulated at least $2.7 billion in "hidden riches." China said at the time that the report smeared its name and had ulterior motives.

The Times reported that "security experts hired by The Times to detect and block the computer attacks gathered digital evidence that Chinese hackers, using methods that some consultants have associated with the Chinese military in the past, breached The Times' network."

The hackers broke into the email accounts of Shanghai bureau chief David Barboza, who wrote the story on Wen's family, and Jim Yardley, the paper's South Asia bureau chief in India who was previously the Beijing bureau chief.

"Computer security experts found no evidence that sensitive e-mails or files from the reporting of our articles about the Wen family were accessed, downloaded or copied," said Jill Abramson, the paper's executive editor.

Security experts did find evidence that the hackers stole the corporate passwords for every Times employee and used those to gain access to the personal computers of 53 employees, most of them outside The Times newsroom, the paper said.

"Experts found no evidence that the intruders used the passwords to seek information that was not related to the reporting on the Wen family," it said.

Computer security experts at Mandiant, the company hired by the newspaper, said the hackers tried to "cloak" the source of their attacks "by first penetrating computers at United States universities and routing the attacks through them. This matches the subterfuge used in many other attacks that Mandiant has tracked to China."

 

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