Sun, 27 Nov 2022

Opinion: Notorious U.S. cyber attacks

Xinhua
01 Oct 2022, 18:55 GMT+10

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by Xin Ping

BEIJING, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- The United States has long earned its name as an Empire of Hacking and a City Upon Theft. Scandals of U.S. cyber attacks and espionage have been reported from time to time. The country was caught red-handed again recently.

On June 22, China's Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) in Xi'an found that phishing emails in the guise of research reviews containing Trojan horse programs were sent to its faculty and students in an attempt to steal research data and personal information.

In early September, China's National Computer Virus Emergency Response Center (CVERC) released an investigation report on the incident, with all clues pointing to the Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO), a cyber-warfare intelligence-gathering unit affiliated to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), as the perpetrator.

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The report revealed that more than 40 different cyber-attack weapons including the highly stealthy "Suctionchar" were applied in TAO's continuous attacks, over 1,100 malicious links were planted and 90 instruction sequences operated in the university's network. Core technology data including key network equipment configurations, network management data, and core operational data were targets of the theft.

For those familiar with Edward Snowden's revelations, TAO has been notorious. As one of the top secrets in the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland, TAO employs a "national team" of U.S. hackers consisting of computer hackers, intelligence analysts, computer hardware and software designers, and electrical engineers.

"TAO's mission is simple. It collects intelligence information on foreign targets by surreptitiously hacking into their computers and telecommunications systems, cracking passwords, compromising the computer security systems protecting the targeted computer, stealing the data stored on computer hard drives, and then copying all the messages and data traffic passing within the targeted email and text-messaging systems," admitted former NSA officials in an interview with Foreign Policy.

In recent years, TAO has "carried out tens of thousands of malicious cyber attacks on China's domestic network targets, controlled tens of thousands of network devices (network servers, Internet terminals, network switches, telephone exchanges, routers, firewalls, etc.), and stolen more than 140GB of high-value data," the CVERC report found.

Unlike other U.S.-sponsored cyber attacks against civilians that aim at collecting personal information, the attacks against the NPU are particularly alarming, for the NPU is a university on the U.S. "entity list" alleged to "help the People's Liberation Army develop aerial and underwater drones and missile technology." In the fields of aeronautics, astronautics, missile technology and marine technology engineering, the NPU has been a leader both domestically and internationally. It's no coincidence that its faculty members and students were targeted by NSA cyber attacks, which are not only a mere hacking operation, but an act of technology theft and espionage.

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"We lied, we cheated, we stole," confessed former U.S. Secretary of State and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The cyber attacks against the NPU are just one more proof that the United States has been trying every means to impede China's technological development. But they won't help the United States make progress, but have only exposed its narrow-mindedness and vicious intentions.

(The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Xinhua News Agency, CGTN, Global Times, China Daily etc. He can be reached at xinping604@gmail.com.)

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