China Accused of Being Source of Hacker Attacks

The large DDoS attacks that hit the blog publishing platform last week originated from China, according to the founder of the site.

A DDoS attack involves harnessing hundreds or thousands of computers to simultaneously hit a web site with data, so that it becomes overloaded. The computers in such attacks have typically been infected with malware, and can be used without the consent or knowledge of their owners.

The attacks, which brought slowdowns to the site, were severe enough to impede the company's three data centres in Chicago, San Antonio and Dallas. As of Mondday, the site has returned to normal.

WordPress said last week the attacks could have been politically motivated and aimed at an unnamed Chinese-language blog, but it no longer has that view.

"Don't think it's politically motivated anymore," WordPress Founder Matt Mullenweg stated. "However the attacks did originate in China." Mullenweg did not expand on the change in view, or offer details on the source of the attacks.

The attacks directed "multiple Gigabits per second and tens of millions of packets per second" and were the "largest and most sustained" in its six-year history, Mullenweg previously said.

China has frequently been named as the country of origin for several major cyberattacks. Chinese hackers have been accused of launching cyber attacks to steal gigabytes of data from foreign energy companies, according to security vendor McAfee. In 2009, Google was also the victim of an attack that it claimed originated from China.

Very often the true source of a DDoS attack is unclear. While computers launching the attacks might be situated in one country, they could be under control of hackers in another country. Users at high risk of malware infections that can be used for DDoS attacks are those that don't run antivirus software, don't keep their operating system updated or are running pirated operating systems that can't be updated.

The Chinese government has responded to these reports, saying it denies being involved in any cyber attacks. "The allegation that China supports hacking is groundless," a China foreign ministry spokesman said last month.

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