China military rejects hacking allegations

Updated 20 February 2013
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China military rejects hacking allegations

BEIJING,: China’s defense ministry on Wednesday rebuffed a report linking its People’s Liberation Army to sophisticated cyberattacks on US firms, saying there was no internationally agreed definition of hacking.
The 74-page analysis by the American Internet security firm Mandiant provided one of the most detailed accounts of large-scale hacking operations that many Western experts have long believed receive official Chinese support.
Security was stepped up at the 12-story office building in Shanghai identified by Mandiant as the headquarters of the military cyberspying Unit 61398, with officers temporarily detaining journalists in the area.
Defense ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said in a statement that Mandiant’s claims had “no factual basis” and insisted there was no consensus on what qualified as hacking.
“There has been no clear internationally agreed definition for ‘cyber attacks,’” he said, adding that the report “subjectively deduced” that online activities amounted to cyberspying.
He reiterated previous arguments by Beijing officials that attacks traced to Chinese IP addresses did not necessarily originate in the country.
“Cyberattacks are by nature transnational, anonymous and deceptive, and the origin of attacks is highly uncertain,” he said.
“It’s widely known that using stolen IP addresses to carry out hacking attacks is happening practically every day.”
In its report, Mandiant alleged the hacking group “APT1” — from the initials “Advanced Persistent Threat” — was a branch of Unit 61398 and had stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations across 20 industries.
The US said in response to the document that it regularly raises hacking concerns with China, with State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland saying it comes up “in virtually every meeting we have with Chinese officials.”
At a regular press briefing on Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei did not respond directly to a question about whether Washington had discussed the issue with Beijing.
He said instead that both sides “have maintained communication” and referred reporters to the defense ministry statement.
Security outside the building in Shanghai’s northern suburb of Gaoqiao that was said to house the military-led hacking group was tightened Wednesday after it became the object of media attention.
An AFP photographer was detained for half an hour while shooting video outside the complex, while another international news agency photographer was also briefly held.
Six Chinese soldiers in uniform pulled the AFP photographer out of a car and brought him to the guardhouse, where they searched his bag and seized his camera’s memory card before allowing him to leave with a warning.
Speaking in English, the apparent leader of the group told him no photography was allowed since it was a military installation.


UN says Nicaragua protest killings may be 'unlawful'

Updated 24 April 2018
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UN says Nicaragua protest killings may be 'unlawful'

  • Some groups called for "dictator" Ortega and his wife to step down, yelling "Out! Out!"
  • Mass street protests are rare in Nicaragua, where the army maintains a very tight grip on public order.
MANAGUA: The United Nations said Tuesday that many deaths in nearly a week of anti-government protests violently repressed by police in Nicaragua may have been "unlawful" and called for an investigation.
The scrutiny from the Swiss-based UN human rights office adds to international alarm at Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's ordered crackdown against a wave of anti-government demonstrations and clashes.
The European Union, United States and the Vatican have all urged talks to restore calm, while the US embassy in Managua ordered family members of staff out of the country after Ortega deployed the army to the streets and looting broke out.
A toll compiled from the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights and Ortega's wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, puts the number of deaths since last Wednesday at 27. Most were protesters, among which university students and youths figure prominently.
"We are particularly concerned that a number of these deaths may amount to unlawful killings," Liz Throssell of the UN Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights told reporters in Geneva.
"It is essential that all allegations of excessive use of force by police and other security forces are effectively investigated to ensure those responsible are held to account," Throssell said.
The UN office said at least 25 people, including a police officer, had been killed.
The protests were sparked Wednesday by pension reforms aimed at keeping Nicaragua's burdened Social Security Institute afloat by cutting benefits and increasing contributions.
But they rapidly spread and intensified as other grievances over Ortega's rule surged to the fore.
On Monday, tens of thousands of people -- employees, students, pensioners and ordinary citizens -- marched peacefully in the capital Managua and other cities demanding an end to the forceful security crackdown on protests.
Some groups called for "dictator" Ortega and his wife to step down, yelling "Out! Out!"
Ortega, a 72-year-old former Sandinista guerrilla leader who has ruled Nicaragua for 22 of the past 39 years, has been taken aback by the demonstrations against him, the biggest in his last 11-year stretch in power.
He has canceled the pension reforms and called for dialogue, and Murillo has suggested arrested protesters could be released.
But his security forces have not been pulled back, and -- though Managua appeared relatively calm early Tuesday -- widespread anti-government sentiment persisted.
Even Nicaragua's business sector, whose support had shored up Ortega over the past decade, has abandoned him over the violence.
A pro-government rally was being organized for Thursday to show that the president still enjoyed backing from part of the population.
Mass street protests are rare in Nicaragua, where the army maintains a very tight grip on public order.
But dissatisfaction has been bubbling over in recent months.
Frustrations have been voiced over corruption, the distant and autocratic style of Ortega and Murillo, limited options to change the country's politics in elections, and the president's control over the Congress, the courts and the electoral authority.
In rural areas, anger also stemmed from a stalled plan by Ortega to have a Chinese company carve a $50 billion canal across Nicaragua to rival Panama's lucrative Pacific-to-Atlantic shipping canal.
If the project went ahead, it would displace thousands of rural dwellers and indigenous communities, while dealing a negative impact on the environment.
"People are demanding democracy, freedom, free elections, a transparent government, the separation of powers, rule of law. The people want freedom," former Nicaraguan foreign minister Norman Caldera told AFP.
"If the government doesn't yield, it's going to be very difficult to stop this (the protests)," he said, asserting that the "big majority" of the population was showing its frustration with Ortega.
"The repressive apparatus is not able to halt protests on this scale," Caldera said.
Though Ortega has held out the promise of talks with opponents, the lack of any identifiable leader in the protest movement could make dialogue there difficult.
Under his watch, Nicaragua has avoided the rampant crime seen in northern Central American countries where gangs are rife.
It has also put in solid economic growth, yet it remains one of the poorest nations in Latin America.
The sudden upsurge in the streets puts Ortega at a crossroads: to tough it out, or to bow to the demands for democracy that have become too loud to ignore.