Lisbeth Salander: Did China Strike Again?

I guess it’s OK to let women and children back on the streets in DC. Members of Congress are heading for the hills — without approving an extension of the payroll tax cut or forcing Prez O to say yes or no to the proposed energy pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast.


Here’s a much more interesting story coming from Inside the Beltway this morning.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning that hackers in China gained access to the computer systems and networks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — the primary lobbying group for businesses in this country. Here’s from the WSJ story, “Chinese Hackers Hit U.S. Chamber“:

A group of hackers in China breached the computer defenses of America’s top business-lobbying group and gained access to everything stored on its systems, including information about its three million members, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The break-in at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the boldest known infiltrations in what has become a regular confrontation between U.S. companies and Chinese hackers. The complex operation, which involved at least 300 Internet addresses, was discovered and quietly shut down in May 2010.

It isn’t clear how much of the compromised data was viewed by the hackers. Chamber officials say internal investigators found evidence that hackers had focused on four Chamber employees who worked on Asia policy, and that six weeks of their email had been stolen.

It is possible the hackers had access to the network for more than a year before the breach was uncovered, according to two people familiar with the Chamber’s internal investigation.

One of these people said the group behind the break-in is one that U.S. officials suspect of having ties to the Chinese government. The Chamber learned of the break-in when the Federal Bureau of Investigation told the group that servers in China were stealing its information, this person said. The FBI declined to comment on the matter.

A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, Geng Shuang, said cyberattacks are prohibited by Chinese law and China itself is a victim of attacks. He said the allegation that the attack against the Chamber originated in China “lacks proof and evidence and is irresponsible,” adding that the hacking issue shouldn’t be “politicized.”

And more:

When sophisticated cyberspies have access to a network for many months, they often take measures to cover their tracks and to conceal what they have stolen.

To beef up security, the Chamber installed more sophisticated detection equipment and barred employees from taking the portable devices they use every day to certain countries, including China, where the risk of infiltration is considered high. Instead, Chamber employees are issued different equipment before their trips—equipment that is checked thoroughly upon their return.

Chamber officials say they haven’t been able to keep intruders completely out of their system, but now can detect and isolate attacks quickly.

The Chamber continues to see suspicious activity, they say. A thermostat at a town house the Chamber owns on Capitol Hill at one point was communicating with an Internet address in China, they say, and, in March, a printer used by Chamber executives spontaneously started printing pages with Chinese characters.

“It’s nearly impossible to keep people out. The best thing you can do is have something that tells you when they get in,” said Mr. Chavern, the chief operating officer. “It’s the new normal. I expect this to continue for the foreseeable future. I expect to be surprised again.”

The ability of rogue nations like China and Russia, criminals and other miscreants to easily gain personal information, security documents and so on represents a serious risk to our economy and national security. Here’s an interesting article in Time, “Hackers Are the New Mob: White House Gets Serious on Cybercrime.”

When I read the story this morning about the US Chamber I kind of chuckled. Not because it’s funny. It’s not. But because opening this week in theaters around the country is the flick “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

It’s based on one of the books in Stieg Larsson’s popular trilogy “Milennium” series.

And the main character is Lisbeth Salander — who among other things has the ability to essentially hack her way into any computer or access any organization’s entire network.

I read the three books in the series, and it strikes me that what Lisbeth was doing in the world of fiction is, ah, doable in the real world.

And that’s scary.

Maybe the nation that has access to the most Lisbeth Salanders will win.

Think about it.

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