Collision Could Launch Wave
WASHINGTON -- After America accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy
in Belgrade in 1999, Chinese hackers launched hundreds of attacks on
U.S. Web sites and infiltrated at least four government Internet sites.
As Chinese animosity against the United States
again flares on the Internet over the ongoing American spy plane incident,
computer security and Pentagon experts say the United States could
encounter a similar wave if the situation isn't defused soon.
have seen an increase in hacking in times of crisis," said Ari Schwartz,
senior policy analyst at the Center for Democracy and Technology. "It's a
microcosm of a larger debate, a way for individuals to get involved in the
So far, no sizable uptick in Web site intrusions or
e-mail spamming has been registered by companies or agencies that monitor
But Chinese Internet chat rooms and other sites
are seething over U.S. refusal to apologize for the collision between a
U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance plane and a Chinese F-8 fighter that occurred
Sunday over the South China Sea.
The Chinese pilot parachuted as
his plane went down and remains missing. Chinese 'Net surfers blame
America for the loss, which they claim was deliberate, according to
Chinese media reports.
U.S. officials say the incident was an
accident provoked when two Chinese warplanes buzzed the slow-moving Navy
plane, the latest in a series of aggressive moves in recent months. The
plane and crew remained Tuesday on China's Hainan Island, and President
Bush reiterated his demand that the crew and craft be released
"We should not return the plane. Then let's see what
they can do about it," one angry Chinese Internet message said. "We are
In May 1999, after a U.S. guided missile struck
the Chinese embassy during NATO's bombing of Belgrade during the Kosovo
crisis, Chinese hackers broke into an estimated 1,000 U.S. civilian Web
sites during the first two days after the accidental attack, according to
Hackers traced to China also infiltrated at
least four U.S. government sites, including the Energy and Interior
Departments' Web sites, the U.S. Embassy site in Beijing and the U.S.
Naval Communications Command.
The hackers planted messages
condemning the bombing and otherwise lambasting America. The Energy site
was shut down for a day as a result, and the others were disrupted
Security experts noted that these attacks, along with
widespread e-mail spamming, amounted to a nuisance rather than a security
breach. No classified Internet sites were reported invaded.
more significance was a coordinated attack by Chinese hackers on NATO
"They came at us daily, hell-bent on taking down NATO
networks," Lt. Gen. William Donahue, commander of the Air Force
Communications and Information Center, said at the time.
the Chinese leadership have embraced the use of cyber-war tactics by
militarily weaker countries against their stronger opponents, viewing
electronic warfare as a way to level the battlefield.
months after the NATO embassy bombing, the Liberation Army Daily -- a
mouthpiece for China's Peoples Liberation Army -- called for the
recruitment of civilian hackers and training of army soldiers in
More recently, followers of China's outlawed Falun Gong sect have accused
the Chinese government of sabotaging or crashing U.S., Canadian and
British Web sites maintained by sect followers.
2001 Daily Camera