Caixin reporter's Gmail hacked

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 July, 2011, 12:00am


Hackers based in Longhui county targeted an investigative reporter's Gmail account following her expose in Caixin magazine of a child kidnapping scandal in the county.

Caixin, one of the mainland's most outspoken weeklies, issued a statement on Saturday condemning the hacking and saying it had reported the incident to police in Beijing.

The attack followed an investigative report in Caixin in May about unlawful snatching of 'illegally born' babies from farmers in Longhui, part of Shaoyang city in Hunan province . More than 10 children born in contravention of the one-child policy were abducted by officials and sold to orphanages that put them up for adoption overseas.

The report sparked public outrage, but there had been reports of similar cases on the mainland over the years.

Last Thursday, Caixin reporter Zhao Hejuan found her Gmail account had been hit by a hacker with the IP address of a computer in Longhui county.

An internal investigation by Caixin confirmed serial attacks targeting her account began last Tuesday, when her mailbox was broken into. This triggered Gmail's alert system, which sent Zhao a warning e-mail detailing four illegitimate log-ins from a single remote location.

'It is shocking and unsettling to see Zhao Hejuan's Gmail account has been under serial attacks from Hunan's Longhui county two months after she returned to Beijing,' a statement issued by Caixin said.

'Zhao Hejuan is a citizen and an investigative journalist. Her e-mail account contains not only her private information but also sensitive journalistic materials including leads to new stories and identities of anonymous interviewees. It's a reasonable guess that her account was attacked to retrieve the information.'

Accompanied by Caixin's legal consultant, the reporter assembled the evidence and reported the incident to a police station in Beijing.

Under China's criminal law, computer hacking is an offence in violation of the right to personal privacy.

Zhao's e-mail account also contained a large number of work messages, which belong to Caixin and are considered commercial secrets protected by law.

This is not the first incident in which a journalist's Gmail account has been hacked on the mainland. In January last year, the Gmail accounts of several foreign news bureaus in Beijing were hacked and e-mails forwarded to a stranger's address. This prompted the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China to issue a notice to members asking them to step up their Gmail security. This notice came less than a week after Google announced that Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists around the world had been targeted in what it said were highly sophisticated attacks originating from China.