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Is China hacking? A veteran correspondent recounts hints of surveillance

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What’s new about “Googlegate” is the open discussion. A US company and the White House seem to agree on rules and norms on Internet protection -- and say so openly. Gady Epstein, a veteran correspondent in China now with Forbes, states: “I see that as a good thing.”

So now it comes out that British firms were warned by MI5, the intelligence service, a year ago about espionage on British execs and travelers to China – asserting that the People’s Liberation Army and the Public Security Bureau try to plant Trojan horse malware in the computers of foreign energy, public relations, and defense firms.

The behavior itself is not new. In 2000 when I started work in Beijing I was told that all forms of communication were compromised – save, for some reason, fax machines. Cell phones were easily tapped and could be used as a microphone by the Public Security Bureau – even when the phone was shut off.

The extent of such intrusion came out in the 14-page British report, titled “The Threat from Chinese Espionage,” which contains references to honey traps, manipulation, and other games: “Hotel rooms in major Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai which have been frequented by foreigners are likely to be bugged. Hotel rooms have been searched while the occupants are out of the room,” the report asserts.

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