Chinese hackers infect German government with spyware

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao has described reports of Chinese hackers breaking into German computers as a matter of “grave concern” and said his country would co-operate with Germany to resolve the matter.

Wen’s comments, made during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Beijing, were prompted by a report published at the weekend in the German news magazine Der Spiegel, claiming that Chinese hackers had been able to infect German government computers with spyware.

Merkel said that for Chinese relations with industrialized countries to move ahead, everyone needs to “respect a set of game rules” and “protect intellectual property rights.”

Security experts from Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) and Federal Data Protection Office discovered Trojan horse programs in computers used in several government ministries, including the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Economics and the Research and Development Ministry, as well as Merkel’s office, the report in Der Spiegel said.

Although the first Trojan horse software was detected in May, there are continued attempts to sneak spyware into government computers via the Internet, according to Spiegel.

Security experts monitoring data traffic were able to stop the transmission of a 160GB file from a German ministry to China, but no one would say if hackers succeeded in stealing other files, the magazine reported.

BSI and the Federal Data Protection Office declined to comment. A spokesman at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, while declining to comment on the Spiegel story specifically, said the federal government, in general, is aware of increased efforts to steal information from computers in the private and public sectors.

“We are making a huge effort to ensure that government systems remain protected from outside attacks,” the spokesman said. “So far, we’ve been able to avoid any damage.”

– with files from reporters in Beijing

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