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Chinese suspected of attempted Parliament hack

In what would be one of the most audacious attempted hacks in UK history, The Guardian is reporting that the UK Parliament almost fell victim to a sophisticated hacking attack, with security experts pointing the finger at the Chinese authorities.

According to the article in the Guardian (opens in new tab):

The hi-tech industrial espionage involved a series of innocuous-looking emails targeted at secretaries, researchers, parliamentary staff and even MPs themselves. Each one was specifically tailored to the individual who would receive it.

Once opened, these emails tried to download sophisticated spyware that hunts through the recipient's computer and network for potentially valuable documents, which would be automatically sent back to the hackers without the user's knowledge.

The newspaper says the attack, which took place in 2005, was thwarted and no sensitive information is believed to have been compromised. The Home Office has refused to comment on the matter.

Although there has been no official confirmation of the origins of the attack, a series of similar style attacks have been given the code-name Titan Rain (opens in new tab)in the States, and first rose to prominence when Shawn Carpenter, an IT worker for Sandi labs, began investigating a series of network break-ins at US companies, such as Lockheed Martin.

The centre of hacking activity was ultimately traced back to servers in Guangdong in China but the sophisticated, military-style execution has led security experts to conclude that there must be some backing, tacit or otherwise, from the Chinese authorities.

According to Alan Paller, director of the SANS institute, the Titan Rain hackers have already made off with military secrets (opens in new tab)from the US Army and Navy, including flight-planning software and specs for an aviation mission-planning system.

The UK’s National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NISCC) has already warned (opens in new tab) that the UK is being targeted by intelligence gathering cyber-criminals from the Far East, so perhaps today’s revelations should come as no surprise.