A young Chinese hacker talks to a New York Times reporter about his world of trolling for information that may one day be worth money:
Internet security experts say China has legions of hackers just like Majia, and that they are behind an escalating number of global attacks to steal credit card numbers, commit corporate espionage and even wage online warfare on other nations, which in some cases have been traced back to China.
Three weeks ago, Google blamed hackers that it connected to China for a series of sophisticated attacks that led to the theft of the company’s valuable source code. Google also said hackers had infiltrated the private Gmail accounts of human rights activists, suggesting the effort might have been more than just mischief.
In addition to independent criminals like Majia, computer security specialists say there are so-called patriotic hackers who focus their attacks on political targets. Then there are the intelligence-oriented hackers inside the People’s Liberation Army, as well as more shadowy groups that are believed to work with the state government.
Indeed, in China — as in parts of Eastern Europe and Russia — computer hacking has become something of a national sport, and a lucrative one. There are hacker conferences, hacker training academies and magazines with names like Hacker X Files and Hacker Defense, which offer tips on how to break into computers or build a Trojan horse, step by step.
For less than $6, one can even purchase the “Hacker’s Penetration Manual.” (Books on hacking are also sold, to a lesser extent, in the United States and elsewhere.)
And with 380 million Web users in China and a sizzling online gaming market, analysts say it is no wonder Chinese youths are so skilled at hacking. Many Chinese hackers interviewed over the last few weeks describe a loosely defined community of computer devotees working independently, but also selling services to corporations and even the military. Because it is difficult to trace hackers, exactly who is behind any specific attack and how and where they operate remains to a large extent a mystery, technology experts say.