In association with heise online

26 August 2011, 10:27

Alleged web site attacks broadcast on Chinese TV

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Zoom The Chinese PLA's alleged attack tool is relatively plain
Source: CCTV 7

The Wall Street Journal and other media have reported that a video by the CCTV 7 TV station briefly became available on the internet showing a tool which appeared to launch an attack on an American university. The scene was said to be part of a documentary entitled "Military technology: internet storm is coming" and was broadcast by the government-run CCTV 7 Military and Agriculture channel on 17 July. A few days before the Wall Street Journal, New York-based Epoch Times newspaper, which says that it promotes uncensored, critical information from and about China, had already reported on the video.

The video shows a simple program interface with Chinese characters. Epoch Times translates the title as "Select Attack Target". The drop-down selection dialogue reportedly contains various items that are connected with Falun Gong. The selected entry refers to IP address, which belongs to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. A click on the "Attack" button reveals a window, but the visible section of the window is empty. What happens after that can't be determined.

Also, the name "Electrical Engineering University of China's People's Liberation Army" appears in the screenshots. The Chinese government, and particularly the PLA, have repeatedly been thought to be behind attacks on sites including some in the US; however, virtually no evidence has ever been found. That an alleged PLA attack tool would be demonstrated on Chinese TV would be quite a surprise. The video in question has since disappeared from the Chinese TV station's web site; however, it is still available to view on YouTube.

The issue is particularly explosive because the US government only recently announced that it classifies cyber attacks as acts of war and reserves the right to retaliate with real weapons. However, things hopefully won't go that far. Talking to The H's associates at heise Online, the affected university said that: "It is impossible to tell how old the archival footage used in the military technology program is. UAB decommissioned the web site in question, which had been posted by a student in violation of university rules, in 2001. It appears from the Chinese video that the purpose was not to launch an attack from that website, but to block access to it. We are not aware of any attack, current or historical, involving that IP address."

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