Cyber expert slams 'spy' report

By Bai Tiantian Source:Global Times Published: 2013-3-26 0:13:01

A Chinese cyber security professor Monday told the Global Times that a Reuters report linking him to cyber espionage is "utterly ludicrous" and insisted his research focused on defending networks from attacks.

Xue Zhi, a deputy dean of Shanghai Jiao Tong University's School of Information Security Engineering, slammed the report as irresponsible.

"I don't think they understand my research. I wrote papers on network security and they accused me of just the opposite," said Xue.

The news report on Sunday said he collaborated on technical research papers with the Shanghai-based People's Liberation Army (PLA) unit 61398, which was accused of launching cyber attacks on Western commercial targets.

The American cyber security firm Mandiant claimed in its report that the unit was behind the attacks against US companies based on traces of IP addresses, an allegation that was called "irresponsible" and "groundless" by Hong Lei, the foreign ministry spokesman.

Xue's paper on the collaborative intrusion detection system, which was published in June 2007, elaborated on ideas of how to improve network security and enhance attack detection capability.

The paper was co-authored by Jiang Weixin and Chen Yiqun, the latter alleged to be a researcher from the PLA unit.

"It was based on research conducted jointly by the three of us when Chen was a graduate student," said Xue, adding that the results of this research were completely personal and his school has never had any ties with the army unit.

Similar comments were made by Fan Lei, a professor at the university who studies network security management and cryptography. Fan, who co-signed a research paper with Chen, told Reuters that he was unaware Chen was with the army during the research.

This was not the first time the university has been accused of carrying out cyber attacks. In 2010, the New York Times filed two reports claiming that cyber attacks on Google and other American firms were traced to the school and the Jinan-based Lanxiang Vocational School. Both institutions denied the accusation.

Shen Yi, a political science professor with the Shanghai-based Fudan University, told the Global Times the logic that linked a co-signed research paper with cyber warfare is very much flawed.

"The speculation stemmed from a lack of strategic confidence, just like how previously South Korea jumped to the conclusion that North Korea was behind the cyber attack. Determining the source of attack from IP addresses is as irresponsible as using a co-signed paper as evidence for cyber espionage," said Shen.

Zhang Shuhua, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the US used to blame Russia for cyber attacks, but the target has gradually shifted to China recently.

"It's not just about cyber attacks. It involves a larger, more complicated nation-to-nation strategic plan," said Shen.

Duan Wuning and Liao Fangzhou contributed to this story

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