The Chinese government is under pressure to answer allegations that it is operating a huge cyber spy network that has hacked into classified files in computers in 103 countries and monitored secret correspondence sent by the office of the Dalai Lama.
Researchers based in Britain and Canada revealed over the weekend the existence of the |so-called GhostNet network that has been gathering information from various governments and private organisations. Some of the researchers said it could not be conclusively proven the Chinese government was behind the network, while others directly |accused the authorities in Beijing.
Experts said the scale of the cyber spy network is vast and unsettling.
The researchers found computers belonging to governments across Europe and South Asia were targeted by the network, which used highly developed software to spy on its targets.
These programmes were so advanced they could even turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of an infected computer, allowing those watching to see in real time what was happening in a particular room.
In all, around 1,300 computers were found to have been hacked, belonging to the foreign ministries of Iran, Bangladesh, Latvia, Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Barbados and Bhutan. Hacked systems were also found in the embassies of India, South Korea, Indonesia, Romania, Thailand, Taiwan and Pakistan.
Some of the most extensive |evidence uncovered related to the computers used by the office of the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan government. Indeed, it was the office of His Holiness which initially contacted the researchers and asked for their help amid fears its computers were being hacked.
Having investigated the computers in Dharamsala, the |investigators discovered evidence of a much broader spy network.
“We uncovered real-time evidence of malware that had penetrated Tibetan computer systems, extracting sensitive documents from the private office of the Dalai Lama,” said Greg Walton, a researcher based at the University of Toronto.