General: Cyberattacks against NATO traced to China

MONTGOMERY, Ala.—Hackers with Chinese Internet addresses launched coordinated cyberattacks against the United States and allied forces during the air war against Yugoslavia this spring, the Air Force's top network communicator confirmed today.

Lt. Gen. William Donahue, director of communications and information for the Air Force, said that during the 78-day air war, called Operation Allied Force, hackers "came at us daily, hell-bent on taking down NATO networks."

Donahue, speaking here at the annual Air Force Information Technology Conference, said the cyberattacks emanated from the Serbs, what he called "Serb sympathizers" and from "people who came at us with an [Internet Protocol] address that resolved to China." He added that the U.S. military traced the attacks back to more than one Chinese IP address.

Donahue said the cyberattacks on NATO networks from Chinese Internet addresses occurred after the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Donahue declined to speculate whether the attacks came from Chinese government-controlled Internet addresses. However, the Chinese government maintains tight control over Internet access.

The attacks that originated from China were "not terribly sophisticated" and involved mostly spam mail that clogged networks, Donahue said.

Donahue declined to comment on reports published in Aviation Week that quoted top Air Force officials who said the United States engaged in offensive cyberoperations against the Serbs. Asked if the United States engaged in offensive information operations to counter the cyberattacks from China, Donahue said, "I don't know.... And if I did, it's too sensitive to talk about."

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