Category Archives: Accounting Firm

Is Chinese Government Really to Blame?

Just wondering.  Is the Chinese Government being set up?  One has to wonder why a year-old report by a British spy agency was only recently leaked to the press.  Among other things, the report claims that free USB memory sticks loaded with trojan software was given to business leaders and lawyers at various Chinese trade events.  Another report  recently in the press indicates that classified documents from government and private organizations “including the computers of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan exiles” were hacked into.  Really?   The Dalai Lama?   Another report indicates that oil drilling data was purloined by servers in China.  

Given none of these attacks have any real direct linkage to the Chinese Government, the only two factors being used to implicate the Chinese Government relates to the sophistication of the attacks and the fact they originated on servers based in China.   This is hardly persuasive evidence that the government was involved.  There are any number of governments and large corporations able to perform these attacks.  Moreover, the fact that servers in China are being used also does not really indicate anything.  According to a report in Information Week, the country that hosted the most phishing sites in the third quarter of 2009 was not China.  It was not even close.  For example, in September 2009, the United States hosted 75.76 percent of all reported phishing sites.  China came in third place with 3.44 percent.  It is likely that of the US-based servers used, many were used by foreign attackers looking to cover their tracks. 

Similarly, it seems like a odd coincidence that oil data theft and so many other intellectual property hacking incidents are only being traced to Chinese servers when the Chinese Government – if culpable – could have easily used US-based servers to cover their tracks.  In other words, let’s not be so quick to blame the Chinese Government for attacks that could very easily have been done by other sophisticated hackers or simply Chinese citizens working on their own initiative.

Google Attacks Provide a Valuable Lesson

The facts are starting to surface regarding the recent attacks against Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft – all of which have been linked to Chinese interests.  According to one recent report, the attackers selected employees with access to proprietary data, determined their social networking friends and then hacked into those accounts.  Once in control of the friends’ accounts, the attackers (posing as friends) sent their actual targets instant messages with links to sites that installed spying software on their computers.   

This sort of criminal strategy could be applied to any company – large or small.  In fact, it is much easier to assume that the president of a large middle market firm has more valuable intelligence on his computer than a strategic employee at a larger company.   Having knowledge of this sort of attack is important given the overall number of attacks against business has been increasing.  According to a recent CSO Survey, 37% of businesses polled have seen an increase in attacks during the past 12 months.  

One sure way to reduce the risk of a corporate attack is to limit social networking access to those individuals in marketing or sales who have a corporate reason to go to those sites.   Even those individuals should have proper training so that they would know, for example, not to click on links that have strange URLs or link to content that does not serve a distinct corporate purpose.  Also, try hard to avoid clicking on an image.  It may be hard to do.  Our propensity to click on whatever online content we see is a habit not easily kicked.