A six-second clip on Chinese state television has provided a rare glimpse into purported cyber hacking attacks launched by the country's military, despite long-standing official denials that the government engages in such activity.
In an episode titled The Internet storm is here, CCTV-7, China's official military channel, had experts discussing the different methods of cyberattacks and U.S. cyber operations. (http://military.cntv.cn/program/jskj/20110717/100139.shtml)
About halfway through the 20-minute episode, a user is seen operating a cursor on a screen that displays two options, a www denial-of-service attack and distributed denial-of-service attack. A denial-of-service attack is a basic hacking attack that brings down a website by spamming it with data.
The screen then changes, showing a box with the words select attack target and input target IP address. A scrolling marquee at the top of the box reads China's People's Liberation Army Electronic Engineering Academy.
The user then selects Minghui.org, a website of the banned spiritual sect Falun Gong, from a dropdown menu containing a list of other Falun Gong sites and clicks the attack button.
It is unclear if the program on the screen shown is a mock-up, or when the clip was filmed. But China has consistently -- sometimes angrily -- denied having anything to do with hacking attacks.
The existence of the piece, which appears to have been shown in July, was reported on Wednesday by China SignPost website (www.chinasignpost.com) which noted it was visual evidence to undermine China's official denials of involvement in hacking.
As of midday on Thursday, the page with the clip on Chinese state television's website was no longer accessible. However, the clip was reposted on other video sharing websites and is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_Wu1HlZbBk
The United States says that many hacking attacks appear to come from China, often targeting human rights groups as well as U.S. companies.
In its annual report to the U.S. Congress on China's military on Wednesday, the Pentagon warned that hacking attacks from China could one day be used for overt military means, rather than just trying to access data.
The accesses and skills required for those intrusions are similar to those necessary to conduct computer network attacks, the report said. Developing capabilities for cyberwarfare is consistent with authoritative PLA military writings.
Google, the world's largest search engine, partially pulled out of China last year after concerns of censorship and a serious hacking episode.
Google, who said the attacks originated from China, was one of the dozens of high profile companies targeted in an ultra-sophisticated cyberattack named Operation Aurora that took place in the second half of 2009. Yahoo, Adobe and Dow Chemical were also reportedly among the targets.
In June this year, Google said its Gmail product had suffered a cyberattack originating from China that was aimed at stealing passwords and information from high level U.S. government officials and Chinese activists.
China also says it is a victim of hacking.
The cyberattacks add to the long list of tensions between the United States and China that span trade issues, human rights, the value of the yuan and Taiwan.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Editing by Brian Rhoads and Miral Fahmy)