U.S.-PRC hacker war heats up; White House Web site hit


WASHINGTON, AFP

A hacker war between the United States and mainland China heated up as the White House Web site was hit with a e-mail “bombs,” and dozens of U.S. and Chinese sites were defaced, security experts said.

The escalation came as mainland Chinese hackers Monday began a weeklong campaign of attacks targeting U.S. government and commercial Internet sites, in retaliation for what they see as assaults by pro-U.S. hackers, experts said.

The campaign, dubbed “The Sixth Network War of National Defense,” officially began at 1200 GMT as mainland China began its May Day celebrations, according to experts who monitor hacker activity.

According to transcripts of a Chinese hacker group meeting obtained by AFP, the cyberattacks will peak later this week.

Some of the sites targeted in addition to the White House include those operated by the FBI, NASA, Congress as well as media outlets such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN and MSNBC.

“This is unique because of the level of organization,” said Jerry Freese, director of intelligence for the New Jersey technology security firm Vigilinx.

“We would never go as far to say it is state sponsored, but it’s certainly state-tolerated,” said Freese.

Michael Cheek of the Virginia security firm iDefense said the White House Web site was being hit with a flood of e-mails in a tactic called “e-mail bomb attacks” in an effort to crash its mail server.

“They’ve developed an e-mail flood tool,” he said, adding that the attacks appeared to originate from Beijing.

The Chinese hackers “have claimed success” in bringing down the mail server, Cheek said, “but I have no indication that’s actually the case.” There was no immediate comment from the White House.

Cheek said Chinese hackers Monday had hit 18 U.S. Web sites, while pro-U.S. hackers had hit 23 sites in mainland China.