On the one hand, the sheer volume of Chinese cyber-attacks barely even qualifies as an open secret. On the other hand, it isn’t normally this obvious (via The Guardian):
China’s state broadcaster has screened footage that apparently shows army-labelled software for attacking US-based websites, security experts have said.
Beijing has consistently denied being behind cyber-attacks, insisting it plays no part in hacking and is itself a victim.
The analysts warned that the six-second clip could be a mock-up by the broadcaster, CCTV, and that, if genuine, it was probably around 10 years old. The footage emerged as the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on the Chinese military said the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had closed some key technological gaps and was on track for modernisation, including thorough investment in cyber capabilities, by 2020.
The Chinese state news agency, Xinhua, denounced the document as a scaremongering “cock and bull story”.
The Chinese characters indicate an option for a distributed denial of service attack – a crude form of attack that disrupts access to a site by bombarding it with requests for data.
Another shot shows the words “attack system” and “PLA Electronic Engineering Institute” on screen. The user chooses a name, minghui.org, from a list of sites belonging to the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement and clicks on a button reading “attack”.
Dr Andrew Erickson, an associate professor at the US Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute, and Gabe Collins, a commodity and security specialist, wrote: “It appeared to show dated computer screenshots of a Chinese military institute conducting a rudimentary type of cyber-attack against a United States-based dissident entity.
“However modest, ambiguous – and, from China’s perspective, defensive – this is possibly the first direct piece of visual evidence from an official Chinese government source to undermine Beijing’s official claims never to engage in overseas hacking of any kind for government purposes.”
Asked whether the footage had been mocked up, CCTV 7 said it did not respond to queries from foreign media. CCTV has been caught using misleading footage in the past, memorably in January, when shots from the film Top Gun were inserted into a news report about PLA training exercises into a news report about PLA training exercises.
Every now and then I think about CCTV using Top Gun clips to publicize their new fighter, and I pretty much lose it in public laughing. Everything about that story is perfect.