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Some Yahoo email accounts hacked in China

Beijing, March 31, 2010

Yahoo email accounts of some journalists and activists whose work relates to China were compromised in an attack discovered this week.

Several journalists in China and Taiwan found they were unable to access their accounts beginning March 25, among them Kathleen McLaughlin, a freelance journalist in Beijing. Her access was restored on Wednesday, she told Reuters.

The compromised accounts include those of the World Uyghur Congress, an exile group that China accuses of inciting separatism by ethnic Uighurs in the frontier region of Xinjiang.

"I suspect a lot of information in my Yahoo account was downloaded," the group's spokesman, Dilxat Raxit, told Reuters on Wednesday. He said the email account, which was set up in Sweden, has been inaccessible for a month.

"A lot of people I used to contact in Lanzhou, Xi'an and elsewhere have not been reachable by phone for the past few weeks," he said, adding he had used the Yahoo email account to contact them in the past.

Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times in Beijing said on Wednesday his Yahoo Plus account had been set, without his knowledge, to forward to another, unknown, account.   

In late 2009 and early this year, several human rights activists and journalists whose work related to China had similarly discovered their Gmail accounts had been set to forward to unfamiliar addresses, without their knowledge.   

Google cited the Gmail attacks in January, when it announced a hacking attack on it and more than 20 other firms. It cited those attacks and censorship concerns in its decision to move its Chinese-language search services last week to Hong Kong.

Yahoo  did not comment on the nature of the attacks on its accounts, or whether they were co-ordinated or isolated incidents.

"Yahoo! condemns all cyber attacks regardless of origin or purpose," spokeswoman Dana Lengkeek said in an email response to a Reuters query.  "We are committed to protecting user security and privacy and we take appropriate action in the event of any kind of breach."

Google's announcement of the hacking attacks drew unprecedented outside attention to cyber-security and China's Internet controls, used to limit discussion of topics deemed sensitive or threatening to "social stability".

Google said on Wednesday said it had identified cyber attacks aimed at silencing opposition to a Vietnamese government-led bauxite mining project involving a major Chinese firm. The attacks were separate from, and less sophisticated than, those at the heart of the company's friction with Beijing.

China's control of the Internet and media has intensified under the current leadership and reflects a lack of understanding of the Chinese public, said Hao Xiaoming, a China media expert at Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information in Singapore.

"China is going back rather than going forward in terms of information and control. That reflects the lack of confidence in the (current) Chinese leaders," Hao said.  "China's Internet has become a controlled Internet, an internal Internet rather than linked internationally. It defeats the whole purpose."  -Reuters   




Tags: China | Yahoo | Email | account | Hacking |

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