Hackers based in China have attacked IT networks belonging to the British Foreign Office and other key government departments, Whitehall has confirmed.
According to reports in The Guardian, cyber-attackers believed to be affiliated with the official Chinese military – The People’s Liberation Army – have hit several Whitehall departments. The Chinese cyber-threat represents a “constant ongoing problem” to government IT systems, one expert told the newspaper.
This is not the first time the British government has been targeted. In January 2006 it was revealed that the House of Commons computer system had fallen victim to a cyber attack, later confirmed to be the work of an organised Chinese gang.
The news follows Monday’s revelation that the Chinese military had hacked into a Pentagon computer network in June, in what American officials described as the “most successful cyber attack on the US defence department”, The Financial Times reported.
Angela Merkel’s chancellory also last week accused Chinese-based hackers of stealing information from a number of German government departments.
The hacking operation was discovered in May of this year and is believed to have targeted networks in the Foreign, Economics and Research ministries. According to The Times, hackers based in Lanzhou, northern China, in Canton province and Beijing, siphoned information back to China on a daily basis.
The People’s Liberation Army has made no secret of its ambition to deploy large-scale cyber assaults as part of its wider information warfare strategy. In this regard, it joins the ranks of a range of government-sponsored hacking operations that now form part of the modern landscape of international espionage.