Cyber Sleuths Track Hacker to China’s Military
The story of a Chinese military staffer’s alleged involvement in hacking provides a detailed look into Beijing’s sprawling state-controlled cyberespionage machinerySecurity researchers have linked a Chinese military staffer to a hacker collective called Naikon.
By Josh Chin, WSJ
Sept. 23, 2015 5:00 p.m. ET
KUNMING, China—The email attachment would tempt anyone following the diplomatic standoff between China and other countries in the South China Sea. The Microsoft Word document contained text and photos depicting Thai naval personnel capturing Vietnamese fishermen and forcing them to kneel at gunpoint.
But the attachment was a decoy: Anyone who opened it inadvertently downloaded software that searched their computers for sensitive information and sent it to an obscure corner of the Internet. Manning that corner, according to a new report from U.S. security researchers, was Ge Xing, a member of a Chinese military reconnaissance unit.
The growing reach of China’s army of cyberwarriors has become a flash point in relations between Beijing and Washington that President Barack Obama says will be a focus during Chinese President Xi Jinping ’s state visit to the U.S. this week.
Cyberspace is the newest domain in warfare, and China’s relentless testing of its boundaries has flustered the U.S. The story of the Chinese military staffer’s alleged involvement in hacking provides a detailed look into Beijing’s sprawling state-controlled cyberespionage machinery.
Mr. Ge doesn’t appear to fit the hacker stereotype. His published academic papers identify him as an expert in a nontechnical subject: Thai politics. Frequent posts on Chinese social media that researchers have linked to him show him to be a new father and avid bicyclist who drives a white Volkswagen Golf sedan and occasionally criticizes the government.