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Chinese school linked to Google attacks also linked to '01 attacks on White House site

A former U.S. Army officer linked '01 hacker to Shanghai Jiaotong University

February 19, 2010 07:06 AM ET

Computerworld - One of two Chinese academic institutions identified in a New York Times report Thursday as the apparent source of the recent attacks against Google, has also been linked to a hacker who may have been involved with the takedown of whitehouse.gov in 2001.

The Times yesterday reported that the recent cyberattacks against Google and more than 30 other organizations appeared to have originated from computers at two schools in China. One of the schools was identified as the Shanghai Jiaotong University; the other, as the Lanxiang Vocational School, an academic institution in China's Shandong Province with apparent ties to the country's military.

A U.S. military contractor attacked in the same manner as Google, has even pointed investigators to a specific computer science class taught by a Ukrainian professor at the vocational school as one source of the attacks, the Times said.

The newspaper, quoting unnamed investigative sources, said the attacks on Google and more than 30 other technology companies appear to have begun in April -- much earlier than previously believed. If evidence of the schools' involvement bears out, it could cast doubt on the assumption that the Chinese government or military was directly involved in the attacks, the Times said.

The Shanghai Jiantong University is one of China's top academic institutions. Earlier this month, it won an international collegiate programming contest sponsored by IBM. The competition, entitled "Battle of the Brains," pitted students from 103 of the world's top universities in a software design challenge. As winners of the competition, students from Shanghai Jiantong University have a guaranteed offer of employment or internship with IBM, according to a statement from the company.

Jiantong University officials, speaking with the Times said they had not heard about the Google attacks being traced back to their computers but indicated a willingness to investigate. A professor at the school didn't rule out the possibility that the attacks came from the school, but said they might simply have been someone "experimenting with their hacking skills."

While the cyberattacks remain under investigation, Shanghai Jiaotong University has been linked with at least one leading Chinese hacker in recent years.

Scott Henderson, a former U.S. Army Intelligence officer who has written a book on Chinese hackers called Dark Visitor, has identified Peng Yinan as a one-time student at the school. Yinan is believed to have been involved in a series of DDoS attacks against whitehouse.gov nine years ago. That is the site for the White House.

According to Henderson's blog, Yinan used the online handles Coolswallow and Ericool and was a fairly active political hactivist during the spat between the U.S and Chinese governments in 2001 following a collision between a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft and a Chinese fighter jet.



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