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6/16/2004
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Taiwan Accuses China Of Launching Cyberattack

According to the Taipei Times, a cabinet minister says government officials believe Chinese hackers have tapped into databases belonging to the Democratic Progressive Party and stolen classified information.

Taiwanese government officials believe Chinese hackers have broken into databases belonging to the Democratic Progressive Party, the Taipei Times reported Wednesday, citing an unidentified Cabinet official as its source.

"The incident has sent jitters through the Ministry of National Defense, which deems a systematic information attack launched by China as military warfare," the paper quoted the Cabinet official as saying. The official said that the hackers stole classified information pertaining to upcoming visits to the United States by high-ranking Taiwanese government officials, the paper reported. The official also said the personal itineraries of President Chen Shui-bian and other party officials were stolen.

This isn't the only recent allegation of potentially state-sponsored cyberattacks. On May 27, Agence France-Presse cited South Korea's highest ranking military intelligence official, Song Young-Keun, commanding general of the Defense Security Command, as saying that North Korea is operating a highly skilled military hacking unit focused on breaching South Korean computer systems.

The AFP report quoted Young-Keun claiming that the North Korean hackers were stealing classified information from research institutes and government agencies.

"It should be no surprise to anyone that this is going on," says John Watters, president and CEO at security intelligence services provider iDefense Inc. "The surprise is that this is making the press and countries are acknowledging that they've been hacked."

Watters says it appears that some governments often work with rogue hacking groups to attack other nations, rather than use their own military hackers. "They don't want it proven that they were directly involved in the attack, which would be seen as an act of cyberwar," he adds.

Watters says there's no direct proof that such attacks are conducted in conjunction with nation states. "But there certainly appears to be some connectedness between the actions of hacker groups and the interests of certain countries," he says. "They appear to be often working in parallel."

Watters says most countries have military hacking groups which collect their own arsenal of digital weapons, including software vulnerabilities and exploit code that haven't been made public.

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