Foreign hackers in China’s sights with proposed changes to cyber law

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 8:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 8:00am

Beijing has proposed a revised internet law to punish foreigners who hack Chinese websites as it steps up its campaign against cyberattacks it blames on the West.

Although it was hard for governments to identify those behind cybercrimes, the move paved the way for China to take legal action against other states, analysts said.

The proposed cybersecurity law changes would let the government freeze assets of foreign individuals or groups if they damaged China’s key information infrastructure, Xinhua reported. Police would apply “other necessary punishment” to those outside the country who attacked, intruded, disrupted or harmed Chinese websites, according to the revised draft quoted in the report.

The draft had been sent to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress for approval, Xinhua said.

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China claims to be a victim of global cybercrimes, reporting growing numbers of attacks from overseas every year. Last year, authorities found more than 64,000 “control points” that had been controlling Chinese websites with malware from abroad, a 52 per cent rise from 2014, according to a government website.

In 2013, Xinhua called the US the top source of hackers who planted malware in its servers.

Hong Kong security analyst Michael Gazeley said hackers usually launched attacks through other people’s servers so it was hard to bring them to justice.

Beijing denies Washington’s claims that it is behind cyberattacks on US government, military and corporate computers.

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In 2014, China accused the US Justice Department of “fabricating facts” after it charged five members of the PLA over attacks on six US corporations.

Liu Deliang, an internet law professor at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunication, said that while it was difficult to freeze hackers’ assets, the threat of doing so was a warning to institutions and countries that might launch cyberattacks on China.

Additional reporting by Jane Li