May 3, 2005 9:22 pm

China blamed for cyber sabotage in S Korea

Chinese hackers have been blamed for a wave of attacks on South Korean government computer systems, the latest in a series of internet security breaches involving China.

The US, Taiwan and the Dalai Lama are among other victims of suspected Chinese cyber sabotage over recent years.

Nearly 300 South Korean government computers have been infected recently with viruses capable of stealing passwords and other sensitive information.

The country’s National Assembly and an atomic energy research institute and are among 10 agencies penetrated by the hackers, who were traced to China by the Korean intelligence service.

“The government views this incident as a threat to national security,” said the spy agency.

It was unclear whether the cases involved amateur hackers or, as South Korean newspapers are speculating, state-sponsored espionage.

One hacker was reportedly identified as a student at a foreign-language school run by the Chinese army.

Seoul has asked for help from China in tracking down the culprits. Beijing has not commented publicly about the case.

South Korea is particularly vulnerable to cyber-crimes because it has the world’s highest usage of broadband services combined with relatively poor levels of internet security.

US government experts recently visited Seoul to bolster the defences of US military computers in South Korea, where the Pentagon keeps 37,000 troops.

China has become one of the world’s biggest sources of computer hackers as the internet becomes more widely available to its 1.3bn-strong population.

Last month, Taiwanese newspapers reported that Chinese hackers had accessed databases of the island’s ruling Democratic Progressive party, including the itinerary of president Chen Shui-bian.

Two years ago, supporters of the Dalai Lama accused the Chinese government of breaking into the exiled Tibetan leader’s computer.

In 2001, Chinese hackers launched a barrage of attacks against US websites in protest against the death of a Chinese pilot in a collision with a US spy plane.

Beijing has always denied allegations of state involvement in hacking and handed out tough punishments against individuals found guilty of cyber crimes.

In 1998, two Chinese hackers were sentenced to death for stealing $90,000 from a bank through the internet, according to Hong Kong Voice of Democracy.

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