Foreign news correspondents stationed in China have recently become targets of two separate but similar malware attacks aimed at stealing information from their computers, reports Reuters.
The attacks took the form of spoofed emails with malicious executables included in an attachment, seemingly coming from a Washington-based think tank and a foreign journalist based in Beijing.
The emails had a common subject: the impending Chinese Communist Party power handover that happens every decade or so.
According to computer security expert Greg Walton who analyzed the malicious attachments, the malware scours the target’s computer for information, which is then encrypted and exfiltrated to a server hosted in Great Britain.
It is nearly impossible to tell who is behind the attack. The Chinese government has issued an expected denial of its involvement in the attacks and has pointed out that “reaching conclusions without sufficient evidence or fair and thorough investigations, it’s just not serious.”
Still, attacks such as these, targeting foreign journalists and political dissidents, are known to spike in China in the months preceding politically sensitive events – and there can hardly be a more sensitive event than the upcoming Communist Party congress and the likely transfer of power from an older generation of leaders to a younger one.