Canadian researchers have said that a cyber spy network based mainly in China hacked into classified documents from government and private organisations in 103 countries, including the computers of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan exiles.
The work of the Information Warfare Monitor initially focused on allegations of Chinese cyber espionage against the Tibetan community in exile, and eventually led to a much wider network of compromised machines.
'We uncovered real-time evidence of malware (malicious software) that had penetrated Tibetan computer systems, extracting sensitive documents from the private office of the Dalai Lama,' investigator Greg Walton said.
The research group said that while its analysis points to China as the main source of the network, it has not conclusively been able to detect the identity or motivation of the hackers.
The researchers detected a cyber espionage network involving over 1,295 compromised computers from the ministries of foreign affairs of Iran, Bangladesh, Latvia, Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Barbados and Bhutan.
They also discovered hacked systems in the embassies of India, South Korea, Indonesia, Romania, Cyprus, Malta, Thailand, Taiwan, Portugal, Germany and Pakistan.
The researchers said that once the hackers infiltrated the systems, they gained control using malware - software they install on the compromised computers - and sent and received data from them.