Summary:

The Gray Lady said Chinese hackers broke into its systems repeatedly over the last 4 months as the company published an expose on Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

NYT Building, New York Times Building
photo: Getty Images / Mario Tama

As if things weren’t tough enough for newspapers: The New York Times says it’s been the subject of attacks by Chinese hackers over the past four months.

The paper and unnamed security experts surveilled the events and laid the blame on the Chinese. Timing of the attacks coincided with the publication of a series on the accumulation of massive wealth by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s family.

New York TimesThe paper and its experts deemed that the hackers used tactics associated with the Chinese military to break into email accounts of  Shanghai bureau chief, David Barboza (who wrote the Wen Jiabao stories) and the South Asia bureau chief, according to a story posted Wednesday night.

Speaking to National Public Radio Thursday morning, Times reporter Nicole Perlroth — who wrote the latest story — said the paper had asked AT&T to monitor its networks for trouble as it prepared to publish Barboza’s stories and AT&T saw activity similar to what it had seen in previous Chinese-initiated attacks.

Chinese hackers have also been blamed for breaking into (or attempting to break into)  US companies including Lockheed-Martin, Google and Intel.  In August, the blog of a Reuters reporter was hacked several times with the attackers posting a story claiming that Saudi prince Saud al-Faisal had died.

Chinese authorities typically deny allegations of state-sponsored hacking, as one did this morning on BBC radio. Other countries — including the US and Israel –are also suspected of using cyber smarts to spy.

When it comes to cyber mischief, the Chinese have honed world-class skills, reportedly attempting to penetrate hundreds of company networks — Google, Intel, iBahn, CocaCola, Bloomberg News and other companies have all fallen victim as have the Pentagon and NASA.

The Chinese “are stealing everything that isn’t bolted down,”Congressman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who chairs the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,  told Bloomberg News last summer.

Late last year, a congressional report held that the Chinese represent a huge threat to security of the US military and other institutions. All of this has given impetus to the development of ever-more sophisticated security apparatus that uses new big data analytics capabilities to sniff out threats before they get out of control.

Cyber attacks are getting increasingly complex and have given rise to the development of more sophisticated threat assessment and intrusion-detection technologies. As GigaOM reported Wednesday, companies like EMC’s RSA division, IBM, and others are incorporating big data analytics techniques to cut the time it takes to detect odd behavior and anomalies to detect attacks faster, and ideally before damage is done.

But this will always be a cat-and-mouse game. Hackers soon incorporate the latest technologies into their tricks of the trade as well.

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