Yesterday The New York Times ran a front page exposé on a "vast spy system," based in China, that has infiltrated at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries. From among those infected are the computers of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in exile.
Researchers in Toronto have named the spy system "GhostNet" and describe it as a remarkable form of malware that can,
"Turn on the camera and audio recording functions of an infected computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room."
While it is unclear whether the Chinese government directly enabled this program, the two computer researchers who worked on the Tibetan investigation (at Cambridge University) are releasing an independent report that lays the blame squarely on the Chinese. Entitled, "The Snooping Dragon: Social Malware Surveillance of the Tibetan Movement," they say,
"What the Chinese spooks did in 2008, Russian crooks will do in 2010 and even low-budget criminals from less developed countries will follow in due course."
The researchers who uncovered this spy ring deserve to be applauded. Moreover, given the fact that the spy system is still in operation, perhaps we should think about deputizing these "white hat" hackers.