BEIJING, CHINA - Although cyber attacks have been frequently reported across the mainland, China is not home to a vast web of malicious hackers, as many attacks here originate from countries overseas, according to analysts.
"It is very complicated to locate an original attack", said a participant at the 9th Xcon conference, an annual gathering of senior cyber security analysts in Beijing.
Internet security threats are on the rise and public awareness of hacking has increased.
In 2009, for example, 75 percent of global companies experienced severe cyber attacks totaling individual losses of at least $2 million, according to Symantec's 2010 report.
Complicating matters for the Chinese government, there have been fervent claims by websites and search engines worldwide - from Google to Optus to the official website of the Republic of Korea - that they have been victimized by Chinese attackers.
The conference participant, also a consultant for a renowned international software company, added that overseas hackers link to computers in China so their victims believe they were attacked from China.
"For example, there might be a hacker in America, he might attack a computer in China first and then use the Chinese IP to attack a computer in Australia and so on", the consultant said.
This is now common knowledge among those in cyber security circles, he added, although the wider public remains largely unaware of it.
Attackers can drop attack packets from fake IPs to make themselves untraceable, or to find "fryers" as springboards with which to exert long-range control.
A "fryer" is a computer with security leaks that is already under a hacker's control, usually through a back door. In short, using "fryers" to attack is like using guns registered under another person's name before squeezing the trigger.
This kind of attack is usually called Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS), "pretty simple technically, with attack tools already made and put out there", the consultant said.
No advanced techniques are needed to conduct DDOS attacks, "as long as you have enough money to buy lots of fryers and control them", said Sun Bing, a Beijing-based information security researcher who also attended the conference.
According to Chinese National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team, over 1 million Chinese IPs were under overseas control in 2009.
In January, Google announced that it would quit the mainland market, citing cyber attacks as one of the main reasons to "review the feasibility" of business operations.