President Bush may confront China over suspicions that its military hacked US defense computer systems.
Since news broke this week that Chinese hackers, allegedly part of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), had hacked into US, British, and German government computers to access defense and foreign-policy-related information, analysts have begun to speculate that the West may be moving into something of a new age cold war stand-off with China.
The Financial Times was the first to report on Monday that supposed PLA hackers had broken into computers at the Pentagon in June, in addition to German and British government systems, and disrupted operations. The cyber-spies managed to access the computer system that served US Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel also reported that Chinese hackers, presumably also from the PLA, had accessed computer systems within the German government.
The PLA regularly probes US military networks – and the Pentagon is widely assumed to scan Chinese networks – but US officials said the penetration in June raised concerns to a new level because of fears that China had shown it could disrupt systems at critical times.
"The PLA has demonstrated the ability to conduct attacks that disable our system...and the ability in a conflict situation to re-enter and disrupt on a very large scale," said a former official, who said the PLA had penetrated the networks of US defence companies and think-tanks.
Hackers from numerous locations in China spent several months probing the Pentagon system before overcoming its defences, according to people familiar with the matter.
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