The New York Times says that it has repeatedly come under the attack of Chinese hackers over the last four months, reports the BBC. The newspaper says that the attacks coincided with a report it ran which claimed Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had amassed a multi-billion dollar fortune. Jiabao was not accused of wrongdoing but according to the BBC, China is sensitive about reports on its leaders’ wealth.
The attacks on the major US newspaper started with the hacking of David Barboza’s account, the paper’s bureau chief in Shanghai who wrote the report, along with the account of one of his predecessors. The hackers went on to retrieve the password of every New York Times employee and gain access to any computer in the paper’s network along with 53 personal computers, most of which were outside the Times offices.
Once discovered, the paper hired internet security firm Mandiant to trace the attack. The firm believes the initial breach may have been through a spear-phishing attack, where an employee clicked on an email or link containing malicious code. It also found that the tactics the hackers used were consistent with other attacks it had traced to China.
Although the accusations have been dismissed as “groundless” by China’s foreign ministry, several governments, companies and organisations have accused the Chinese of systematic cyber espionage for years.