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Experts guard CEC against China hackers

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The government has set up a special team of experts to prevent Chinese Internet hackers from manipulating the results of the upcoming elections, an official from the Cabinet-level Science and Technology Advisory Group (STAG) said yesterday.

The official made the remark during a press conference held by the Government Information Office to assess all agencies' preparedness for the legislative elections slated for Saturday.

The National Information and Communication Security Task Force (NICST) is composed of Internet experts in charge of preventing malicious computer attacks on the government's election facilities and operations before and during the elections, Kuo Yiao-huang, executive secretary of the STAG.

In a string of recent incidents, Chinese computer hackers have allegedly broken into high-security networks in the U.S. and other countries.

During the summer 2007, governments of Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Britain reported intrusions from what they described as Chinese sources.

Kuo noted the task force was formed last November under the code name "Guard Project." Its responsibilities include screening the Central Election Commission's (CEC) information security measures, ensuring CEC Web site security, and monitoring CEC Web site services and election affairs system operations round-the-clock.

He added that in October and December last year, CEC's computers had been hit by malicious virus-spreading e-mails.

But no other significant threats against the government's information and communication security have been reported since the NICST was established, he said.

According to Chinese-language media, China has long been accused of using cyberwarfare as a critical component of its asymmetrical warfare tactics for any future conflict with foreign countries.

In 1999, after U.S. military planes "accidentally" bombed Beijing's embassy in Belgrade, Chinese hackers conducted cyberbattles with their U.S. counterparts over the Internet.

According to two detailed studies conducted by Verisign, an Internet-security company based in California, the self-proclaimed "Network Crack Program Hacker" from China has created nearly 35 programs aiming at taking advantage of vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office programs.

The Trojans take partial control of an infected computers, which can be used to send documents, photos and other files over the Internet without the users being able to notice it.

However, Kuo said the CEC's counting of votes was not "vulnerable to cyberspace attacks" because the agency's vote-counting system was not connected to the Internet.

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