It has emerged that Belgium is the latest country to feel the force of the Chinese cyber-super-power, with Belgian ministers claiming that state sponsored hackers have been targeting Federal Government computers. The Justice Minister in Belgium, Jo Vandeurzen, has claimed that the spate of hacking attacks also reported to parliament by Foreign Affairs Minister Karel De Gucht, definitely originated in China and are likely to have been at the direct bequest of the Beijing Government.
Of course, Belgium has no need to feel lonely in the face of this apparent Chinese cyberspy attention. As recently as September 2007 the Pentagon computers serving the office of the US Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, also came under attack and the hackers were thought to have been members of the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Googling the subject brings up a whole heap of similar reports, with both the British and German Governments being victim of suspected hacker attack by PLA operatives.
"Spying has been going on between countries for thousands of years, and it would be foolish to think that countries like China would not take advantage of computers and the internet to assist them in this" says Graham Cluley, Senior technology Consultant at security experts Sophos who adds "It is unusual, however, for a nation to accuse another of engaging in this activity - especially when it can be extraordinarily difficult to prove an attack is being sponsored by a government or is a lone hacker acting independently."
According to Cluley, there simply isn't enough evidence to say whether these attacks were sponsored by the Chinese Government or not. "Internet hackers can hide their tracks, hopping from computer to computer, and leapfrogging around the world, making it very hard sometimes to determine precisely who is behind an attack" Cluley admits, continuing "Governments need to think carefully before accusing another of spying via the Internet - unless they have strong proof. There is no doubt however of the importance of securing critical computers inside government from hackers whether motivated by politics, espionage or money."