Washington, Mar 22 : Human rights and pro-democracy groups sympathetic to anti-China demonstrators in Tibet are being subjected to sophisticated cyber attacks designed to disrupt their work and steal information on their members and activities.
Alison Reynolds, director of the Tibet Support Network, said organisations affiliated with her group are receiving on average 20 e-mail virus attacks daily.
Increasingly, she said, the contents of the messages suggest that someone on one or more of the member groups' mailing lists have an e-mail account or computer that has already been compromised.
On March 18, as protests in Tibet intensified, a technology specialist working with Reynolds's group sent a message to members warning them to expect a sharp increase in e-mail and other cyber attacks against groups rallying the international community against China's crackdown.
Less than 24 hours later, Reynolds said, someone sent the exact same message out to the list, urging recipients to review an attached Microsoft Word document for online safety instructions (file-named "cyberattack.doc").
The attachment included a Trojan horse program that opened a "backdoor" on any computer used to open the file, giving the senders remote access over the system, the Washington Post reported.
"If successful, these attacks can impact the safety of the people we work with, but the other part of this is it seems they're trying to make it more difficult for us to function effectively, to disrupt our activities," Reynolds said.
Reynolds said these types of sustained, targeted attacks suggest a level of organisation, tenacity and degree of commitment not typically seen in attacks by individual hackers.
"They're really trying to disrupt the Tibetan movement, and whoever is perpetrating this is doing it on full-time basis," the Post quoted her, as saying.
The attacks on pro-Tibet organisations are not the first to be tied to computers in China.
The Washington Post reported on March 21 that the FBI is investigating whether hackers in China targeted a group working for human rights in Darfur, the war-torn province of Sudan. China has economic and strategic interests in the African nation's oil fields.