Massive increase in attempts to breach online security, report says
Cyber attacks on China launched from bases overseas surged in 2011, rising to 8.9 million computers affected from 5 million the previous year, according to a network security report.
Japan was the source of most attacks (22.8 percent), followed closely by the United States (20.4 percent) and the Republic of Korea (7.1 percent).
The report, released on Monday by China's National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team and Coordination Center, found that 11,851 Internet protocol addresses based overseas had controlled 10,593 Chinese websites last year.
"This shows that Chinese websites still face a serious problem from being maliciously attacked by foreign hackers or IP addresses," Wang Minghua, deputy director of the team's operation department, said at a news conference on Monday.
Attacks included destroying servers, distorting website content and stealing personal data from Chinese Web users.
Overseas hackers altered the content of 1,116 Chinese websites, including 404 run by government agencies, Wang told China Daily, adding that they may have been responsible for many more, as the addresses and names they use are often difficult to trace.
Although it was discovered that many hackers used Trojan Horse-style programs simply to steal personal data, Zhou Yonglin, director of the team's operation department, said "money is not the sole motivation", as in several cases the hackers had intended to access State networks and steal confidential information.
If they had succeeded, "that would have been far worse and would have increased the difficulties the government faces in ensuring online security", he added.
Chinese companies and Internet service providers have been urged to invest more time, energy and money into developing online security systems.
"Even though the nature of cyber attacks varies, they generally utilize vulnerabilities in the system to penetrate into computer systems," software virus expert Evgeny Aseev told China Daily.
Aseev, who heads the Asia-Pacific virus laboratory for Kasperky, a Russian security software company, said malicious software, or malware, is used in more than 20 percent of cyber attacks.
He pointed out that many holes still exist in the security of websites maintained by governments and enterprises, which makes them vulnerable targets, while the popularity of social networking sites has made it easy for hackers to lure users into unwittingly downloading malware.
Internet users can increase their security by regularly updating their system software and watching out for strange website links while using instant messaging tools, he said, adding that keeping important files data encrypted and using intricate passwords are equally important.
Kang Kai, the owner of Thinkmo, a website dedicated to learning English in Tianjin, said his website suffered at least one attack every month.
"As a small Internet company, we can't afford to employ a big maintenance team. We can only resort to private IT professionals after each attack," he said.
To assist attacked private websites and maintain online security, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has launched several investigations since June, and authorities prevented the spread of online viruses 14 times last year, the report said.
However, China has also been the source of attacks on networks in other countries.
"Our team received more than 500 complaints from foreign network associations last year," Zhou said. "Internet security is not one country's duty. It's a global issue."
China has established arrangements with 40 countries and 79 organizations to tackle cyber attacks, the report said.