Toronto, Mar.29 (ANI): Canadian researchers have reportedly uncovered a Chinese cyber plot that hacked the websites of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and systems in the embassies of India, South Korea, Indonesia, Romania, Cyprus, Malta, Thailand, Taiwan, Portugal, Germany and Pakistan.
They claimed that the operation has been successful in stealing documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world.
The New York Times website reported Saturday that researchers, based at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto, said the system was being controlled from computers based almost exclusively in China.
But they could not say conclusively the Chinese government was involved.
A spokesman for the Chinese Consulate in New York dismissed the idea that China was involved, while the Chinese Embassy in Toronto did not immediately return calls for comment.
According to the Globe and Mail, the researchers had been asked by the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader whom China regularly denounces, to examine its computers for signs of malicious software, or malware.
"We uncovered real-time evidence of malware that had penetrated Tibetan computer systems, extracting sensitive documents from the private office of the Dalai Lama," investigator Greg Walton said.
They discovered a broader operation that, in less than two years, has infiltrated at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices.
The researchers said they believe that in addition to the spying on the Dalai Lama, the system, which they called GhostNet, was focused on the governments of South Asian and Southeast Asian countries.
The operation continues to invade and monitor more than a dozen new computers a week, the researchers said.
The malware can turn on camera and audio-recording functions of an infected computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room.
The researchers were able to monitor the commands given to infected computers and to see the names of documents retrieved by the spies but in most cases the contents of the stolen files have not been determined.
The researchers said they have notified international law-enforcement agencies of the spying operation. The F.B.I. declined comment on the operation.
Iran, Bangladesh, Latvia, Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Barbados, Bhutan, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Romania, Cyprus, Malta, Thailand, Taiwan, Portugal, Germany and Pakistan are said to be the countries affected. (ANI)