China state news agency Web site hit with malware

Part of the Xinhua news agency's Web site was found distributing malware

A section of the Web site for China's state-run Xinhua news agency was found to be distributing malware last month, according to a Google malware scanning service that is still labeling the site as potentially harmful.

The "news center" section of the Xinhua's Web site, which displays a feed of the agency's stories, was found to have one scripting exploit and one Trojan on it during a scan, according to a Google Safe Browsing diagnostic page. No suspicious content was found on the site during a scan about ten days later, but the section of Xinhua's Web site is still being labeled potentially harmful in Google search results.

The Google notice has appeared on Xinhua's Web site before, said a manager at Xinhua, who was reached by phone and refused to give his name. But the agency has checked its Web site and it has no problems, he said.

Various factors can cause a Web site to distribute malware, including third-party attackers who add malicious code to a site without permission. Hackers tampered with nearly 2,800 Chinese government Web sites last year, according to a government watchdog.

A malware warning also appeared in Google search results last year for part of the Web site of the People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of China's Communist Party. Local media cited a representative of the site blaming Google for the message and accusing the company of "vile behavior." Google called the accusations wrong and said its scanners are highly accurate. The warnings appear next to search results that are found appearing to distribute malware.

China is not the only country where the Web sites of government-linked organizations are hit with malware. Three Web sites belonging to the U.S. Department of the Treasury were hacked recently to attack visitors with malware.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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