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Researchers Trace Data Theft to Intruders in China

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researchers Nart Villeneuve, Greg Walton and Ronald J. Deibert

From left, Nart Villeneuve, Greg Walton and Ronald J. Deibert, researchers at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs,who monitored a China-based computer spying ring.

Credit: Fred Lum / The Globe and Mail

Turning the tables on a China-based computer espionage gang, Canadian and United States computer security researchers have monitored a spying operation for the past eight months, observing while the intruders pilfered classified and restricted documents from the highest levels of the Indian Defense Ministry.

In a report issued Monday (April 5), the researchers, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, provide a detailed account of how a spy operation systematically hacked into personal computers in government offices on several continents.

The Toronto spy hunters not only learned what kinds of material had been stolen, but were able to see some of the documents, including classified assessments about security and confidential embassy documents. The intruders even stole documents related to the travel of NATO forces in Afghanistan, illustrating that one gap in computer security can leave many nations exposed.

"It's not only that you're only secure as the weakest link in your network," says Rafal Rohozinski, a member of the Toronto team. "But in an interconnected world, you're only as secure as the weakest link in the global chain of information."

From The New York Times
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