By Erik Crouch
CFR.org hack warning
Last month the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations (one of the US’s most prestigious think tanks) was attacked by a group of hackers. The attack aimed to compromise the computers of the website’s high-profile clientele, which includes high-level politicians, powerful businessmen (and humble Shanghaiist writers). The hack was believed to be carried out by the Elderwood Group, a China-based hacker coalition that has previously targeted Google, Tibetan- and Uyghur-rights groups, Amnesty International, Taiwanese travel sites, and other pages seen to be “anti-China.”
The principal question isn’t whether or not the hackers are Chinese (the attacks have been linked to computers within the country) but rather if they are linked to the government. Elderwood has repeatedly impressed security experts with its seemingly unlimited supply of resources and the high sophistication of their attacks, leading to speculation that the group is more than just a handful of hackers in Beijing and Shanghai (as was originally believed). Beijing emphatically denies having any hand in the recent Council on Foreign Relations hit, but previous Elderwood attacks (such as those against Google in 2009) were said to have links to the Chinese government.
There is a silver lining: these latest attacks only targeted exploits in Microsoft Internet Explorer. You may want to shoot off a quick email to your grandmother’s hotmail account, but until Elderwood coordinates another Chrome or Firefox hack, all you non-IE users can breathe easy.