China's Military Accuses U.S. of Unleashing an 'Internet Tornado'

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In an amusing use of poetic license, China's military has accused the U.S. of deploying an "Internet tornado" that's wreaking havoc across the world. The colorful allegation comes in the form of an article signed by Chinese military scholars Ye Zheng and Zhao Baoxian, and is seen as a reaction to accusations from Google that a sophisticated "phishing" attack on senior U.S. officials originated from Jinan, China. "Of late, an Internet tornado has swept across the world ... massively impacting and shocking the globe," wrote the scholars, in the Communist Party-controlled newspaper, China Youth Daily. "Behind all this lies the shadow of America... Faced with this warmup for an Internet war, every nation and military can't be passive but is making preparations to fight the Internet war."

According to the Associated Press, the article was published Friday. It comes as the FBI investigates Google's claims that the attack compromised accounts of U.S. government officials. White House press secretary Jay Carney has said no official government email accounts were hacked suggesting that the breach was exclusive to the officials' Gmail accounts. The hacking suggests "China believes government officials are using their personal accounts for official business," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "Presumably, the Chinese wouldn't have done this if they weren't getting something." Rep. Darrell Issa, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, said this breach wouldn't be such a big problem if officials follow the rules about using Gmail accounts for official business. "When workers mix government business and personal email accounts that creates real risk,” Issa spokesman Seamus Kraft told Politico. “If everyone followed the rules, there would be much less risk but we know that's not the case." On Thursday, China denied any involvement in the hacking attack, calling such accusations "completely unfounded and made with ulterior motives." The White House has yet to assign blame for the attacks.

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Mila Parkou, an independent security researcher, tipped off Google to the attacks and told The New York Times how it was carried out.  "One of the victims let her examine some suspicious messages," reports the Times. "That led her to discover a fake but convincing Gmail login screen that attackers used to dupe targets into submitting their passwords. She said the messages indicated that the phishing attempts had begun at least a year before she learned of them — early in 2010." The hackers also created fake login pages for corporate email systems, she said. “What’s ‘wrong‘ with these e-mails is very, very subtle,” computer security expert Gregory Conti told the Times. “They’ll come in error-free, often using the appropriate jargon or acronyms for a given office or organization.”

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.