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Chinese hacking explained

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have recently asserted that they were hacked - by the Chinese.    It would seem that there is substance to the allegation.    But how do the Chinese do it?       Mother Jones comes to to rescue to explain it all.

"On Monday, an American cybersecurity firm called Mandiant released a report accusing the Chinese government of systematically hacking into American computer networks and targeting state secrets, weapons programs, businesses, and even the nation's gas pipelines. The New York Times vetted the story and concluded that a growing body of evidence "leaves little doubt" that these attacks are originating from a secret Chinese army base. Adam Segal, senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (an organization that, in the past, has also been targeted by hackers that appeared to be China-based), tells Mother Jones that this "raises the pressure on the increasing drum beat on the US to do something."

So just how freaked out do you need to be? Here's everything you need to know:

How do cyberattacks and cyberwarfare work? A cyberattack is what happens when a hacker penetrates computers or networks for the purpose of maliciously exploiting systems and information. This can lead to identity theft, viruses, theft of intellectual property, or full-on system infiltration (i.e., the hacker can watch your every move). Cyberwarfare is what happens when countries are the ones employing those hackers, often with the goal of stealing state secrets and/or causing damage.

The scheme that Chinese hackers employ to gain footholds on victims' computers is known in computer-speak as spear phishing, according to Mandiant, and it's a scam that's been around for years. The sabotage begins when a victim receives an innocuous work-related email about a meeting or a project from what appears to be a colleague's email address. If the target takes the bait, he or she will click on a hyperlink or download an attachment from the message. In some cases, suspicious recipients have responded to phishing emails with questions about the file's authenticity. The Chinese hackers have responded: "It's legit." When the target downloads the files, they'll be unwittingly installing remote-access software (sometimes referred to as a "backdoor") that allows the hacker to assume control of the victim's computer."


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