On Saturday, the New York Times reported that Canadian researchers had uncovered a vast computer network, based out of China, dedicated to conducting cyber-espionage. According to the Times, the researchers began their investigation at the behest of the Dalai Lama, who worried that the Chinese were spying on him and his computers.
Well, it turns out the Dalai Lama was right. The researchers uncovered large-scale infiltration of the Tibetan leader’s computers, breaches in computers of the ministries of foreign affairs in Bangladesh, Indonesia Iran, Latvia, and the Philippines, many embassies around the world, as well as some NATO and Western Government computers. And today, the Associated Press reports that the Dalai Lama has condemned the attacks.
But while the AP quoted the Dalai Lama as saying, “My officials are surprised that even some communication from my office in upper Dharmsala to our secretariat in central Dharmsala seems to reach the Chinese hands,” cyber security experts familiar with the field say the Lama has no reason to be surprised, and that the breach is neither new nor unique.
Sami Saydjari, president of the Cyber Defense Agency, spoke to PopSci.com and said that the scale of this recent attack was far smaller than previous Chinese hacking efforts. In particular, 2007 saw attacks against western computer systems that were so pervasive that the German chancellor Angela Merkel publicly asked Chinese officials to stop the hacking.
Since 2003, the US national laboratories, industrial facilities and security infrastructure have weathered a number of attacks by Chinese hackers. The largest of those attacks, the infamous Titan Rain, included penetration of NASA and Lockheed computers.
While the Dalai Lama certainly has a right to be upset at the Chinese for their eavesdropping, he’s going to have to get on the end of a long line if he wants to file a formal complaint.