A recent report released by FireEye, a US based network security company, gave the shocking news that hackers, most likely from China, have been spying on governments and businesses in Southeast Asia and India for over a decade. It stated that this cyber espionage operations dated back to 2005, and were focused on government and commercial activities, which hold key political, economic and military information.
“Such a sustained, planned development effort coupled with the (hacking) group’s regional targets and mission, lead us to believe that this activity is state-sponsored – most likely the Chinese government,” the agency said.
According to Bryce Boland, Chief Technology Officer for Asia Pacific at FireEye and co-author of the report said that the hacking activities are still going on, after it noted that the servers used by attackers continued to be operational as FireEye traced attacks against its customers.
However, neither Foreign Ministry nor the Cyberspace Administration of China or their internet regulator responded to the allegations. In the past, China has always refuted any assertionsof spying on governments. China had been accused of spying on South and Southeast Asian nations earlier in 2011 when researchers from McAfeereported that a campaign dubbed Shady Rat had attacked Asian governments and organization, among other targets, and China had a hand in it.
Referring to the recent case, Miguel Gomez, a researcher at De La Salle University in the Philippines, said that efforts made by the ASEAN to prevent cyberattacks have been patchy. While the nations have long acknowledged its importance, very little has come out of it.
Political systems have long maintained elaborate systems of espionage, which has become even more feasible with advances in surveillance technology. In 2013, the massive USA spying scandal was exposed, triggering worldwide protests, given the scope of operations included their own citizens and ‘friendly’ countries. There was a massive call for ending US hegemony in internet governance which gives it unprecedented access to personal information and communications.
Given the murky world of internet, where anonymity, borderlessness and poor laws make it difficult to catch the culprits, government spying agencies can easily use proxies, as is possibly the case with the current Chinese hackers.India and other developing countries remain particularly vulnerable to cyber-attacks due to poor cyber security infrastructure.
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