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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 Attrition.org 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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Hacker?
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
quote:
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?


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