China says it's a cyber-attack victim, not villain

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BEIJING, Sep 22 (Reuters) China has been the target of a big increase in cyber-attacks in recent years and faces more of a threat from hackers than any country in the West, a military researcher said today.

Beijing has hotly denied recent reports in Western media that Chinese hackers penetrated systems in the Pentagon and in the chancellery and key ministries of German leader Angela Merkel.

Computers in Britain's Foreign Office have also been hit, according to the Guardian newspaper.

Countries that are victims of computer hackers should work together instead of arbitrarily blaming China, Wang Xinjun, a researcher at the People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Sciences, told the official Xinhua news agency.

''In fact, hackers' attacks on China's computer systems have surged in recent years and China is facing a more severe information security situation than any Western country,'' Xinhua quoted Wang as saying.

''But the Chinese government never blames it on any other country and insists on calling for international cooperation to crack down on Internet-wrecking crime,'' he added.

He said it was strange that China was singled out for blame when only one or two attacks out of thousands had been traced back to China.

Governments should put aside their prejudices towards China and abandon their ''cold war mentality'', Wang said, without naming names.

''Countries should strengthen exchanges of information on hackers' attacks and make it easier for other countries to track down the hackers,'' he told Xinhua.

REUTERS SKB VC1032

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