China blocks the BBC in possible retaliation for hacking coverage

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The BBC says China is blocking its English-language World Service shortwave radio broadcasts. And while it won’t speculate as to why, this could be retaliation for the BBC’s coverage of Chinese hacking of Western corporations. After Mandiant, an IT security firm, released a report tracing cyber attacks on US companies to a secretive unit of the Chinese army, a BBC China crew went to film outside the unit’s building and was detained by Chinese police.

This makes the BBC the latest in a string of Western media organisations to be blocked in China. The New York Times and Bloomberg have both had their websites blocked after publishing investigations into the family wealth of Chinese leaders, and several outlets also claim to have been targeted by Chinese hackers. Nor is it just the media: Chinese cyber-spies have also attacked most Washington institutions, and Airbus parent EADS and German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp have also recorded serious assaults.

According to internet services company Akamai Technologies’ latest State of the Internet report (registration required), China is the world’s biggest source of cyber-attacks, and hacking attempts originating in China more than doubled in the third quarter of last year over the previous three months:

Chinese hacking attacks
Chinese hacking on the rise.
Image: Akamai Technologies

Still, China may be missing the point by snooping around newspaper or Washington email accounts for information. As Ezra Klein writes, Washington is “fractious and bumbling” and politicians’ computers probably do not contain documents outlining grand schemes set to be enacted immediately. Klein continues:

Imagine the junior analysts tasked with picking through the terabytes of e-mails from every low-rent think tank in Washington, trying to figure out what matters and what doesn’t, trying to make everything fit a pattern. Imagine all the spurious connections they’re drawing, all the fundraising bluster they’re taking as fact, all the black humor they’re reading as straight description…