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February 19, 2013

Cyber Crime Investigators Track Attack Sources to Chinese Military-Owned Building

By David Gitonga, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Any discussion about cyber crime would be incomplete if concluded without the mention or thought of the top cyber criminal organizations known on the Web. However, Internet security officers do not value information suggesting that an attack was from Anonymous, Elderwood, Flame or Comment Group, if it cannot pinpoint the perpetrators and their actual physical locations.

One comparatively helpful report is one from Mandiant, a U.S. based security research firm, claiming that a building owned by the Chinese Military is the source of a staggering percentage of cyber attacks. The 60-page report suggests that the attacks trace back to a 12-story building linked with the People’s Liberation Army General Staff’s third department a.k.a. Unit 61398.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Kevin Mandia, Mandiant’s founder, pointed out the fact that investigations led security teams to the unit’s doorstep. Since this is not seen as a concrete conclusion, the safest deduction is either they are coming from inside Unit 61398, or the people who run the most-controlled, most-monitored Internet networks in the world are clueless about thousands of people generating attacks from this one neighborhood.

Mandiant’s research is not the only one trying to link organized cyber crime with espionage groups in China. With most of the attacks stemming from 20 identifiable gangs portraying superb organizations, there is reason to believe that these groups have military or government funding.

Though conclusions from most research institutions, specifically Mandiant’s report, suggests that the majority of the cyber crime attacks are originating from China, the Chinese government still staunchly refuses to acknowledge the validity of the claims.

With most attacks from these cyber crime cartels targeting intellectual information and security related content that can only be directly useful to the military or an opposing government, it is evident that these groups don’t hack for fun, but have a common purpose in mind.

Since the Internet no longer has any central monitoring unit, the management of cyber crime is virus-bound to plague our systems for as long as the World Wide Web exists. With the birth of new ways of apprehending hackers, comes trickier ways of carrying out the vice.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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