Okay. This one’s quite a shock… According to a recent Reuters report, the Chinese government was supposedly behind a hacking campaign that targeted the Tibetan and Uighur leaders who were also users of Hotmail, Microsoft’s email system. Reuters also alleges that Microsoft probably knew about this hacking campaign all along, but was mum about it.
The report reveals that these targets of the hacking campaign were supposedly not informed by Microsoft that such developments were going on surreptitiously. The campaign was supposedly initiated in 2011 and Microsoft, at that time just asked their users to alter their respective passwords instead of informing them that a virtual watch was being kept upon them (probably because they feared the Chinese government, which has an infamous legacy of censoring and blocking content and websites on the internet).
The act of changing the passwords didn’t come to much use then because the infiltrators had already intruded into the privacy of the targeted users by then and were already aware of the new passwords that had been set. So, the campaign had in no way deviated from its trail.
The report by the world famous news agency has made Microsoft change its stance, and it has said that it will inform its users if it thinks that the state is intruding into the confidentiality of its users in any manner. The spokesperson of the technological biggie, also refuted the claims in the article, and said after carefully considering the various claims that were made, including the fact that they couldn’t trace the “identity of the source of the attacks”, they have made sure that proper steps are taken so that security of the Hotmail accounts is enhanced, including a forcibly-done “password reset”.
But the fact that they have changed their stand only in light of the recent developments, gives reason enough to consider the fact that the Chinese hacking campaign is the impetus behind such a shift in policy.
Others like Twitter have also followed suit. They have warned their users that they can be targets of such online hacks and also issued an alert suggesting that an unnamed state was probably trying to pry into theirs. Yahoo followed just ten days after Twitter issued its warning on the 10th of December of the last year.
Google too has had its share of spats with the Chinese government over attacks of a supposed Chinese intrusion into its system.
With all such companies taking such important steps to curb invasion, the trend of cyber espionage seems to be an extremely disturbing one.