A Chinese Internet security firm has claimed that India, along with the United States, South Korea and Japan, was “a major source” of cyber attacks directed at the government and companies here last year.

A report released by the Beijing Rising Information Technology company said at least 60 per cent of attacks targeting “large companies, government, and scientific research institutions come from overseas” with the “major sources of the attacks” in India and the three other countries, the official The China Daily reported on Tuesday.

Chinese officials in recent days have sought to rebut allegations from the U.S. suggesting the involvement of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in organised cyberattacks, pointing out the threats faced by China.

Echoing their argument, the Rising report said “nearly 200,000” Chinese websites had been hacked in 2011.

“The situation in 2013 will not change much. Although we do not know who initiated those attacks, we do know which country the hackers are from,” Liu Siyu, director of the security research team at Rising, told The China Daily. He said China was the world’s “second-largest target” for hackers globally after the United States.

Stop data theft: U.S.

Only on Monday, U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon called on China to stop the theft of data from U.S. government departments and companies and to follow “acceptable norms” in cyberspace, in the most direct public comments on the issue from Washington.

His statement followed a recent report by a U.S. private cyber security firm that claimed a PLA unit based in Shanghai was linked to a spate of attacks targeting U.S.-based organisations.

Last week, outgoing Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi hit out at the allegations, saying “they may have caught the eyes of people but they are built on shaky foundations”.

“Anyone who tries to fabricate or piece together a sensational story to serve a political motive will not be able to blacken the name of others or whitewash oneself,” he told reporters in his last press conference as Foreign Minister.

“All countries in cyberspace are closely interconnected,” Mr. Yang said. “Cyberspace needs not war but rules and cooperation. We oppose turning cyberspace into a new battlefield or using the Internet as a new tool to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs.”

Chinese officials have pointed out that other countries like the U.S. and Israel had themselves been involved in cyberattack operations in the past. But U.S. analysts say cyberattacks from China targeting private companies were unprecedented in terms of scale and had, in a sense, changed the rules of the game.

In 2011, the Chinese government’s official National Computer Network Emergency Response Coordination Centre released a report claiming that half of 4,93,000 cyber attacks on the websites of the Chinese government “originated from abroad, particularly the United States and India”. It said 14.7 per cent of the attacks were linked to Internet Protocol addresses (IPs) in the U.S. and 8 per cent in India.

The release of the 2011 report followed another investigation by a cyber security company, McAfee that documented 72 hacking attacks on government agencies in India and the U.S. as well as on the International Olympic Committee and United Nations agencies. The pattern of the attacks and nature of the targets led many analysts to suggest they originated in China.

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