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China hacks into the Pentagon, UK sites

world Updated: Sep 06, 2007 01:50 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri

Hackers of the Chinese army broke into a Pentagon computer system in June. This follows charges last month by Germany that Chinese hackers tried to break into its government computers. Beijing has strongly denied both claims.

Pentagon experts say they are relatively certain they traced the attack back to the Chinese government computers. The hack attack forced the Pentagon to close the system down for a week.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel complained about the hacker attack against her government’s system to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during a state visit. German security experts traced the attacks to centres in Guangzhou and Lanzhou.

A day after China dismissed the US claims that its military had hacked Pentagon’s security network, cyber warriors from the Asian nation were on Wednesday accused of penetrating into the computers of British government departments. The hackers, some believed to be from the People's Liberation Army, have hit the computer network at the British Foreign Office as well as those in other key departments, The Guardian reported here, quoting a senior government official.

According to the unnamed official, the cyber attacks on governmental networks in Britain by Chinese hackers have been going on for at least four years and the campaign was responsible for an incident last year that shut down part of the House of Commons’ computer system.

Experts say it is impossible to be 100 per cent certain that the Chinese army was behind the attacks because of the ease with which a hacker can route his attack through servers around the world. However, few doubt Beijing role's given that it has made offensive cyberwar capability one of its strategic priorities.

Chinese strategists have argued that given the military preponderance of US, China's best counter was to focus on vulnerable military infrastructure. Chinese analyses of the US wars have focussed on the US's dependence on electronic networks to coordinate conventional air, land and sea power. Beijing sees the ability to “blind” the US military machine for at least a few days as crucial, for example, to any successful seizure of Taiwan.

With agencies