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CNN reporter dives into the world of the Chinese hacking underground

“No website is 100% safe,” says Chen Xiao, member of a team of hackers that operate from a bare apartment just off the coast of Shanghai.

“There are websites with high-level security, but there is always a weakness,” adds Chen.

Pensive about his actual identity, Chen and his two colleagues belong to what some are calling a Chinese “civilian cyber militia,” attacking government and private websites around the world for fun and, occasionally, profit.

In a secret meeting with CNN correspondent John Vause, Chen showed the reporter around his apartment and demonstrated how Chan and his group do their business. The meeting was set up after weeks of “on-again, off-again e-mail exchanges.” When Chen finally agreed, “CNN was told to meet them on the island of Zhoushan, just south of Shanghai and a major port for China’s navy.”

Chen also runs an online community that sports more than 10,000 registered users, providing hacking articles, tools, news, and flash tutorials. He claims the website has been in operation for more than three years.

“There is a saying,” says Chen, “’Know about both yourself and the enemy, and you will be invincible.'”

Many now look to China as the biggest source of the world’s cybercrime, with a December 2007 report from McAffee calling the internet a front for “the next Cold War” as a new black market emerges for hacking tools and information. When the Chinese military was suspected to be hacking into Pentagon computers around June of last year, Beijing called the accusations “groundless” and accused U.S. officials of having a “Cold War mentality.”

Chen claims that he and his associates have hacked into some of the most prolific and secretive web sites in the world, including internal sites for the Pentagon. While he could not provide proof to back up these claims, he did admit that his associates were paid after-the-fact by the Chinese government for information gleaned from the Pentagon attack.

“I am telling you honestly, the Chinese government does not do such a thing,” said Chinese official Gang Qin, responding to Chen’s allegations.

James Mulvenon, who works for the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, called Chen and his ilk “useful idiots for the Beijing regime,” noting that they are tolerated provided they “do not conduct attacks inside of China.”

Government entities aren't the only targets of hackers these days. 2007 was a banner year for cyber hackers with regards to personal information. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) and non-profit groups, there were over 79 million reports of compromised personal data records for 2007 according to the ITRC -- this compares to roughly 20 million reports during all of 2006.

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By ineedaname on 3/8/2008 10:41:22 AM , Rating: 5
I have no doubts that there are Chinese hackers as there are hackers from anywhere in the world. But I wouldn't trust that CNN report at all. What so called "Hacker" with their right mind would show their apartment to CNN??? This is obviously either some loser who doesn't really know anything or he was paid to say it. It wouldn't be the first time that CNN made up some fake incident and reported it.

I'm not saying that there are no Chinese hackers trying to hack the pentagon but what country DOESN'T have hackers trying to hack the pentagon??? This news report just seems to be trying to make it sound bigger than it really is, as most news reports do.

RE: Hacker?
By greylica on 3/8/2008 11:08:54 AM , Rating: 2
You deserve 7 for this comment.
What kind of idiot entitle itself a hacker and demonstrate his own apartment ?
And I will go further, I have my own doubts that the Chinese have this kind tolerance with them all. Anyone in any part of the world that has built a successfull atack and sell it to goverment are well observed by spies.
For me, or it´s a fake, or then it´s only the spokesperson of the group, that does not know anything except waht they told him to speak. And for this kind of purpose, any idiot believing that it´s being protected by the group will serve.
But there is no protection, and one day if any(REAL)spy took that guy for interrogation, the guy will cry like a child thinking "I am F***** now...", with a bunch of pain to say where the REAL guys are...
Poor guy, he isnt´a (REAL)hacker.
I can intitle myself the spokesperson of the president of the United states too. Mwahahahaha. LOL.

RE: Hacker?
By Polynikes on 3/8/2008 11:23:02 AM , Rating: 4
I think you're probably right, but if they are real hackers and what they said is true, then
James Mulvenon, who works for the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, called Chen and his ilk “ useful idiots for the Beijing regime ,” noting that they are tolerated provided they “do not conduct attacks inside of China.”

... that sounds about right.

RE: Hacker?
By spluurfg on 3/8/2008 3:17:02 PM , Rating: 3
Your comments make sense, but on the other hand, reporters routinely get interviews with terrorists and criminals. Even hackers have egos.

RE: Hacker?
By winterspan on 3/8/2008 8:22:28 PM , Rating: 2
I totally agree. These people saying "What hacker would talk to CNN" obviously don't realize that these people probably are dying to brag to ANY media outlet about their accomplishments... It's all ego, just as big name network reporters routinely get interview with not only Hezbollah and Hamas leaders, but even Islamic terrorist leaders like Bin Ladin and others back in the day.
It's not hard to imagine some rag tag group in China wanting the somewhat anonymous publicity. I would be a lot less worried about foreign governments/police than I would be about outing the fact that China pays these people for info. I would NEVER say such a thing to international media. Whether China tolerated them before is irrelevant now, they surely aren't going to let this slide.

RE: Hacker?
By grampaw on 3/9/2008 12:38:07 PM , Rating: 2
These Chinese dudes are obvious "posers" if they're advertising. Ever hear the one about the perfect crime? Nobody knows it's been committed. Need I say more...

RE: Hacker?
By Magnus Dredd on 3/9/2008 2:22:34 PM , Rating: 2
Is it a crime if you have the backing and protection of your government?

If this guy is what he claims, he is fscking untouchable!!!

The Chinese government gets to truthfully say that he is not employed by them for diplomatic reasons, all the while reaping the benefits of what he is doing.

RE: Hacker?
By xRyanCat on 3/9/2008 6:50:25 PM , Rating: 2
The government wouldn't back him up.
If by some chance the U.S. could prove that this man did in fact do what he said he did, the Chinese would deny any affiliation to him. It would be stupid on there part to admit to hacking the Pentagon when they can easily put all the blame on one individual. And have appropriate reprimands carried out on him.

RE: Hacker?
By Strunf on 3/10/2008 2:19:01 PM , Rating: 2
Na the guy would just go missing... I'm pretty sure that if the guy did what he said and the Chinese gov. rewarded him they would never let the US get the hand on him.

RE: Hacker?
By omrtech on 3/14/2008 12:20:14 PM , Rating: 2
I think he meant anonymously "back him up".

I don't think they would leave any trace of payment.

RE: Hacker?
By Magnus Dredd on 3/9/2008 2:19:15 PM , Rating: 2
One that has the unofficial backing of his totalitarian government.

You can bet your ass that if this guy is the real deal, and he very well could be, that if you tried to harm him (in China), you would very quietly disappear.

I have a friend (ex-VMS admin) who spent thousands of dollars in phone bills to the USSR during the 80's uploading BBS and other software to pro democracy groups. He was never visited by or talked to by operatives "Ours" or "Theirs", but he said it wasn't uncommon for a cargo van to be parked down the street that didn't belong to his neighbors.

He jokes that if the soviets had sent someone after him, that they'd probably have been intercepted before they ever reached his door.... he'd never know the difference.

RE: Hacker?
By alce11 on 3/10/2008 2:41:41 PM , Rating: 3
maybe it was not his apartment.
It seems a simple enough thing to do. And we all know how low the paranoia level is in the it community, don't we?

By adam92682 on 3/8/2008 12:21:30 PM , Rating: 5
just cut the cable going to china

RE: cable
By everxray on 3/9/2008 4:20:06 PM , Rating: 2
I'd say why don't just cut ALL the cables around China? Or even better, cut all cables around the states, that will make it hacker free, will it not?

RE: cable
By Strunf on 3/10/2008 2:21:34 PM , Rating: 2
that and shoot down all the satellites...

RE: cable
By The0ne on 3/10/2008 2:44:06 PM , Rating: 2
But then the 90%+ products coming from China is going to be replace by? :)

RE: cable
By Ammohunt on 3/10/2008 3:25:51 PM , Rating: 2
I agree cut the tube running to china

"Every government hacks"
By falacy on 3/8/2008 11:38:47 AM , Rating: 2
I seriously doubt that the Canadian government knowingly hacks others around the world. The "Canadian Security Intelligence Service" (CSIS) has it's own website, which knowing our niave approach to the world is likely running IIS from a Windows 2000 server that hosts all of our "secrets", like our top secret spying on research to remove the fat from bacon without changing the taste and texture.

If our government hasn't even noticed that CFB Trenton (our national airforce base - also where our dead soldiers return after being killed by the taliban in Afganistan) is clearly detailed on Google Earth, I don't expect that it's particularly skilled in the computer industry... About a year ago I passed this info along to a lady that I know who works on the base for some high ranking person, but I guess they didn't care. I do though, as my family and I live in the nuclear bomb splash radius of the base, as do 50,000 or so other Canadians...

Mmmm... I think some governments aren't in the hacking business.

RE: "Every government hacks"
By jpieters on 3/8/2008 12:59:30 PM , Rating: 2
I am sorry that you feel this way Falacy. If you think that CSIS and the RCMP are the only intelligence gathering institutes in Canada then you are sorely mistaken. Perhaps you need to do some research into the CSE for example. Also, details of military camps available on the internet are not a huge threat, considering you can photograph most of CFB Trenton from the highway.

Sure, Canada may not be at the forefront of international espionage, but never ever assume that we are a joke Intelligence Community.

RE: "Every government hacks"
By Xs1t0ry on 3/8/2008 2:22:46 PM , Rating: 2
Sure, Canada may not be at the forefront of international espionage, but never ever assume that we are a joke Intelligence Community.

Well put. I am a member of the CF and I considering where our operations currently are and who we are up against, I don't think being able to see our bases on Google Earth is a big deal anyways.

Moreover, as an "insider," I can tell you to expect some good things from the DND (Department of National Defence) concerning counter-cyber-terrorism and all-around cool hacking stuff in the next 5 to 10.

Chinese economy power
By Ananke on 3/8/2008 2:45:40 PM , Rating: 2
Chinese economy is overwhelmingly dependant on exports - over 40%. If a decline in USA and EU consumption happens, and it happens now, it is a matter of time lag the Chinese economy to plunge, so do the Chinese stock market values. Since the most of the world implemented free market principles, the economic correlation between the countries is well greater than a decade ago. And similar crash happened to a smaller scale with the Asian crysis in 2000.
So, please follow economic logic and don't exagerate Chines or somebody's else power, since inevitable economic and thus social cycles exists.
Also, chinese hackers are tought and developed by government agencies there; yes there is large underground society, but the best are employed/slaved by the government and not presented in this article. I assume the same for the USA. Mostly they are involved in industrial and technology enspionage. I think the article is a joke, greatly overstating the reality.
Yee, I am born and worked in the Soviet block, if somebody knowledgable is even able to contact a media, believe me, he would not survive to meet a journalist, neither his 10 000 registered users.

RE: Chinese economy power
By spluurfg on 3/8/2008 3:23:48 PM , Rating: 4
Often when a chief importer of your goods falls away, another replaces them. In this case, the EU could easily become China's largest export market, if you feel American consumption will fall off a cliff. Also, there is a significant amount of consumption growth taking place within China, which of course is a significant market by sheer population.

By daar on 3/8/2008 7:09:54 PM , Rating: 2
That picture is oddly familiar, where's it from?

RE: Pic?
By MFK on 3/8/2008 7:21:50 PM , Rating: 2
Its from the 1995 flick 'Hacker'.

By shamgar03 on 3/7/2008 9:34:09 PM , Rating: 2
It would be interesting to see what white hat guys in the states have to say. Its pretty easy to impress CNN, but is it really possible that there are so many exploits that American's just don't know about?

As if this is anything new...
By Noya on 3/7/2008 10:07:52 PM , Rating: 2
...every government with a decent military budget is constantly attempting to hack/probe into other countries military/intel networks.

Who wrote this?
By Xs1t0ry on 3/8/2008 2:25:14 PM , Rating: 2
Does anyone else find the title "Chinese Hackers take on the world with ease" a trifle... retarded?

The article itself is pretty redundant. I mean considering /.'s story on the USAF cybercommand, it is really not surprising as their mandate is to conduct electronic warfare (EW) primarily to secure the country against China (which we can take with a grain of salt and assume it will be much more offensive then defensive).

By Ivan Mykytyn on 3/8/2008 9:46:56 PM , Rating: 2
The thing that intrigued me was that the hackers seemingly that operate from a bare apartment just off the coast of Shanghai... shouldn't they get a boat?

Speaking of hackers..
By an0dize on 3/10/2008 2:42:50 PM , Rating: 2
Speaking of hackers, why did you guys pull the article about Windows Vista being cracked you had up last week for a whole 3 minutes? Pressure from above?

By funduck on 3/10/2008 3:17:50 PM , Rating: 2
Anybody who believes this CNN story has any shred of credibility to it needs to have their head examined.

By 16nm on 3/8/2008 11:03:16 AM , Rating: 1
I'm not saying this CNN reporter is necessarily "Full of Iraqi Shite", but hackers are a very discrete group with the Chinese ones being even more so. They're not likely to go around bragging like this, and certainly not bragging about hacking government sites.

The Future of America
By borowki on 3/7/08, Rating: -1
RE: The Future of America
By Duwelon on 3/7/2008 8:25:29 PM , Rating: 2
Clearly, the one with the most experience is Elmer Fudd. Elmer Fudd for President!

RE: The Future of America
By bryanW1995 on 3/7/2008 8:33:50 PM , Rating: 5
no, we need al gore, he invented the internet!

RE: The Future of America
By Some1ne on 3/7/2008 8:45:34 PM , Rating: 5
You're logic is self-defeating. The Internet is what the Chinese are using to try to hasten our downfall, so the last person we need as president is the very individual who provided the world with the tools for our destruction in the first place.

You must be a Chinese spy in disguise!

RE: The Future of America
By jadeskye on 3/7/2008 9:02:47 PM , Rating: 2
we could always try and get bill gates to run for prez. Asia doesn't seem to have much love for microsoft.

RE: The Future of America
By Ashrac on 3/8/2008 12:57:37 AM , Rating: 2
But then neither does the EU

RE: The Future of America
By sporr on 3/8/2008 6:02:24 AM , Rating: 2
But then neither does the world.

RE: The Future of America
By michael67 on 3/8/08, Rating: 0
RE: The Future of America
By Ashrac on 3/8/2008 11:31:59 AM , Rating: 4
Wow, you so totally didn't get any of this thread.

RE: The Future of America
By bupkus on 3/7/08, Rating: -1
RE: The Future of America
By KeypoX on 3/7/08, Rating: 0
By lexluthermiester on 3/8/2008 9:16:41 AM , Rating: 1
No he doesn't. And if you had ever read/heard that statement you would understand. Or maybe not, understanding greatly depends on intelligence...

RE: The Future of America
By xRyanCat on 3/9/2008 7:01:30 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, he doesn't.


Al Gore was, however, a big advocate of the Internet and what it could do. As a politician he did have an impact on the development of the Internet. Whether or not his impact was significant is arguable.

Its one of the quotes that we all like to get behind and spread around, but it is largely taken out of context.

RE: The Future of America
By kyleb2112 on 3/13/2008 11:00:09 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I'm a hugely critical of Gore, but that particular knock on him was always BS. One of those things that just got repeated too many times with nobody bothering to look up the original quote. No reason to perpetuate it when there are so many more legitimate arguments against him.

Or, Him, I should say lest he strike me down.

RE: The Future of America
By SlyNine on 3/7/2008 8:37:31 PM , Rating: 2
Its not my children's computer I'm worried about, its my children. Personally I think China is heading towards a revolution, all the media outlets, ease of gaining information and distributing it in privet among each other. The growth alone should trigger change. Yes this could be wishful thinking.

RE: The Future of America
By mankopi on 3/7/2008 8:46:23 PM , Rating: 5
Did you say tasted? where was Hilary Clinton tested? All these experience crap she keeps talking about, can you please tell me what her EXPERIENCE in the job of being President is? Does being the wife of a President give her the experience? If that's the case, my wife is a Surgeon, based on that experience, I stand here and claim I can perform a heart transplant to anyone in need. I'm sure you will laugh at this statement, so should you when Hilary claims experience of being a president.

RE: The Future of America
By fk49 on 3/7/2008 8:51:23 PM , Rating: 2
Did you say broken sarcasm meter?

RE: The Future of America
By xsilver on 3/8/2008 12:59:27 AM , Rating: 1
I think its broken just like his surgery skills.

If his wife was really a surgeon then he WOULD actually have better skills than a regular schmuck on the street; for some reason he cant see that.

And by his standards there are only 4 people with enough people to be president, carter, bush senior, bill clinton, and W bush. Everyone else is either not enough experience or dead.

RE: The Future of America
By jconan on 3/7/2008 8:53:11 PM , Rating: 1
didn't Hillary despise Gore and his inventions including the internet? lol. We need the Terminator or the Skynet they're ready from day 1 to deploy worldwide... HRC and the ilk, they're just a bunch of lawyers and how many lawyers does it take to run the internet?

RE: The Future of America
By fic2 on 3/7/2008 9:12:49 PM , Rating: 4
how many lawyers does it take to run the internet?

5 - 1 to call tech support to find out where the on switch is and 4 to file lawsuits on behalf of people that can't find on switches.

By nothingtoseehere on 3/9/2008 5:33:21 AM , Rating: 1
how many lawyers does it take to ruin the internet?

There, fixed that for you.

RE: The Future of America
By eman7613 on 3/8/08, Rating: -1
RE: The Future of America
By FITCamaro on 3/8/2008 8:16:31 AM , Rating: 4
Yeah. Hillary's a good choice. I mean she's already got plenty of ties to the Chinese since she and her husband have sold US secrets to them for campaign dollars. She'll be in a great position to negotiate with them for the rest of America.

RE: The Future of America
By Megadeth on 3/10/08, Rating: 0
This is a joke!
By mcmilljb on 3/7/08, Rating: -1
RE: This is a joke!
By zaki on 3/7/2008 9:52:46 PM , Rating: 2
oh yeah, you must really be the source for all this info!

cnn should just interview you next time.

RE: This is a joke!
By mxnerd on 3/8/2008 2:43:28 AM , Rating: 5
Don't ever underestimate Chinese hackers. Actually, you will be stunned to find that Chinese is catching up very fast in every area, and they outnumber U.S. population by 4x.

A lot of people are still poor, but they have a lot of smart & rich people, too. And while U.S. economy is in recession, China is still booming. Even troubled CitiBank wanted to borrow money from China.

And don't you know they are already planning landing on the moon?

RE: This is a joke!
By mcmilljb on 3/8/2008 9:08:18 PM , Rating: 2
Who cares if there is 4x times the US population? Most of the population doesn't even own a computer. China is too busy trying to steal info because they cannot create it. If china hackers are so good, why aren't we hearing stories everyday? These guys in the story are fakes. I'd put my money on European hackers before Chinese hackers. The economy is not an issue with how good these hackers are. Hell the US went to the moon multiple times and with less technology.

RE: This is a joke!
By AlphaVirus on 3/10/2008 1:44:25 PM , Rating: 2
why aren't we hearing stories everyday?

If by 'we' you mean 'United States, I can answer your question, its because our government and media tries to shelter and brainwash us at the same time.

Why dont we hear about the War in Iraq anymore? The war is still alive and kicking to its fullest but news stations dont publish anything on the war anymore. We are sheltered to what the government wants us to hear and see on tv.

RE: This is a joke!
By Yames on 3/10/2008 3:44:21 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, our government dictates what information the media puts out. They have hit men inside CNN, and if CNN does not comply with their wishes, then the insubordinates are taken to a back room and tortured.

Are you kidding? We have some of the best media, in terms of free press, the world over. Lay off the psychedelics.

China on the other hand spoon feeds its people news.

RE: This is a joke!
By stmok on 3/8/08, Rating: 0
RE: This is a joke!
By mindless1 on 3/8/2008 9:45:30 PM , Rating: 1
Think about the size and population of China. Certainly without question someone from CNN or anywhere else could find someone who is a "hacker". That doesn't necessarily mean they find the greatest hacker in the nation, doesn't even have to mean the hacker has finished puberty but nevertheless with that many people you are bound to find at least one hacker dumb enough, lonely enough, or desperate enough for attention to reach out to a reporter.

Would you provide proof? That would tend to get someone into trouble. Maybe it's all made up but even a pathetic hacker would have some second thoughts about who what when where why to provide something concrete a court could use against them.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh
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