China Chamber Hack

Siobhan Gorman is back in strong form on the front page of the December 21, 2011 Wall Street Journal with her article “China Hackers Hit U.S. Chamber,” which suggests at first glance that  hackers made from porcelain were successfully thrown into some U.S. person’s bedroom. However, the subtitle, “Attacks Breach Computer System of Business Lobbying Group; Emails Stolen,” makes things a little clearer. And when we begin to read the text we see that “a group of hackers in China” broke (electronically) into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, possibly stealing some “six weeks of their email.”

While this type of breach can be extremely damaging, not only to those who have had their personal data hijacked, but also to political relations between involved countries, as well as destroying any trust members may have had in the Chamber’s computer systems and networks, such incidents are neither unusual nor unexpected. And it is more than likely that this event is only a very small tip of a very large iceberg.

Two all-too-common characteristics of this breach jump out: One is that the Chamber did not discover the breach itself but supposedly was informed by the FBI, which spotted the transfer of the stolen data to servers in China (Nota Bene: This alone does not prove unequivocally that a Chinese group did it). A second common characteristic is that the breach was apparently discovered only in May 2010 after it had been active since “November 2009 or earlier,” which is seven or more months after apparent inception.

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