The Chinese government has finally been caught red-handed launching cyber attacks against the West, after eagle-eyed security researchers spotted a damning piece of footage in a Chinese military documentary programme.
F-Secure chief research officer Mikko Hyppönen explained in a blog post that the 20-minute documentary was aired last month in China on the government controlled channel CCTV 7, Military and Agriculture.
"The programme seems to be a fairly standard 20-minute TV documentary about the potential and risks of cyber warfare. However, while they are speaking about theory, they actually show camera footage of Chinese government systems launching attacks against a US target," he explained.
"This is highly unusual. The most likely explanation is that this footage ended up in the final cut because the editor did not understand the significance of it."
The type of attack is not clear, but a translation of the screenshot on the F-Secure blog shows the hacker selecting attack destinations from a list of targets relating to Falun Gong or Falun Dafa, a religious movement outlawed by the Chinese authorities.
"In particular, the attack is launched against an IP address, 22.214.171.124, which belongs to a US university," said Hypponen. "Already the existence of such software with such targets is breaking news."
Damning the Chinese authorities even more is a revelation in the video that the attack software being used is credited as being written by the Information Engineering University of China's People's Liberation Army.
The Chinese authorities have long been suspected of launching sustained cyber attacks against public and private sector organisations across the globe - most notably in the Operation Aurora attacks revealed by Google in 2009 - but there has been little concrete proof.
Indeed, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, gave a speech at the Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit in June arguing that China should no longer be blamed for the world's hacking problems, and calling for greater international collaboration between law enforcers.
The stock denial from government sources in Beijing is likely to be swift and unequivocal, but those words seem rather hollow now.
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