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Journalists’ emails hacked in China

world Updated: Mar 31, 2010 23:58 IST
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In what appears to be a coordinated assault, the email accounts of more than a dozen rights activists, academics and journalists who cover China have been compromised by unknown intruders. A Chinese human rights organisation also said that hackers disabled its website for a fifth straight day.

The infiltrations, which involved Yahoo email accounts, appeared to be aimed at people who write about China and Taiwan, rendering their accounts inaccessible, according to those who were affected.

In the case of this reporter, hackers altered email settings so that all correspondence was surreptitiously forwarded to another email address.

The attacks, most of which began last Thursday, occurred the same week that Google angered the Chinese government by routing Internet search engine requests out of the mainland to a site in Hong Kong.

The victims of the recent intrusions included a law professor in the United States, an analyst who writes about China’s security apparatus and several print journalists based in Beijing and Taipei, the capital of Taiwan.

“It’s very unsettling,” said Clifford Coonan, the China correspondent for Variety magazine, whose email account was rendered inaccessible last week after Yahoo detected that someone had gained access to it remotely. “You can’t help but wonder why you’ve been targeted.”

Kathleen McLaughlin, an American freelance journalist in Beijing who sits on the board of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, said the group has confirmed that 10 journalists, including herself, had their accounts compromised. “Someone is clearly targeting journalists,” she said. “It makes me feel very uncomfortable.”

Yahoo, which in 2005 sold its China operations to the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, has faced criticism for cooperating with government security officials in the past.

The New York Times