Alibaba to continue march on US despite cyber attack
Stephen Chen in Beijing
Trade protectionism in the United States could have prompted a cyber attack last week on Alibaba, the world's biggest online trading platform, a spokesman for the mainland company said yesterday.
Hackers launched a continuous attack on the company's www.aliexpress.com website, an online trading platform for small business owners in the US, for two days from Friday, a statement posted on the company's statement said.
The incident affected access to the website but no customer information was stolen, it said.
'Aliexpress.com is a pure commercial platform developed by Alibaba to break into the US market and serve small business owners around the world,' the company said.
'Alibaba has always respected the common interests of Chinese and American small enterprises ... and strongly condemns hacking activities aimed at trade and business websites.
'Alibaba will assist the authorities to carry out an investigation ... our plan to march into the US will carry on as planned.'
Company spokesman Wu Hao told Xinhua the attack could have been launched by hackers with protectionist sentiments. The company did not specify where the attacks came from or what was targeted.
Lyon, a professional hacker and leader of the Honker Union of China, said that as mainland companies expanded around the world, cyber attacks from other countries, and especially from the US, would increase dramatically.
'I would be surprised if these attacks were not launched by Americans,' he said.
'The government of the United States has built up the biggest cyber army in the world. Many of their cyber soldiers used to be elite hackers. China is the No1 enemy in their routine cyber warfare drills. They often use the websites of the Chinese government and businesses as white rats to test their equipment and strategies.'
In January, hackers hijacked the DNS server of Baidu in the US. At first, it was assumed the attacks were launched by Iranian hackers, but later investigation revealed that they originated in the US.
'Compared to other Chinese companies, Alibaba and Baidu actually have more resources to defend themselves,' Lyon said. 'Most Chinese companies are vulnerable to internet infiltration and attacks. As the economic strength of China grows, Chinese companies will become the hottest target of American hackers.'
The cyber attacks issue has affected the diplomatic relationship between China and the US since Google announced in January that it had become the target of a sophisticated cyber attack that it said was related to the internet censorship imposed by the Chinese government.
Chinese officials have denied that China played a role in the attacks, saying instead that China was world's biggest victim of hacking.
In its initial response to the Google accusations, the Foreign Ministry said that cyber attacks from abroad had increased by 148 per cent in 2008. Later on, in the wake of a speech on internet freedom by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the ministry stressed that it was 'a major victim of hacking in the world', asked for international co-operation, and added that China 'supervises the internet according to law'.
The China National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team, an official internet safety watchdog, said overseas hackers, especially those in the US, were illegally controlling computers in China by implanting malicious programs such as trojans and zombies.
Last year, 262,000 IP addresses in China were hit by trojans planted by nearly 165,000 overseas IP addresses, it said, adding those from the US ranked first, accounting for 16.61 per cent.
The Global Times - an English-language newspaper run by the People's Daily - went further, saying the US was a major source of hacking attacks. It has said Washington had a 'cyber-army of 80,000 people equipped with over 2,000 computer viruses', citing US defence expert Joel Harker.