The clip shows up without explanation, lasting for about six seconds during a rather mundane documentary about hacking produced by the state-sponsored China Central Television
The video appears to give a peek at a state-sponsored hacking tool used to disrupt the operations of a spiritual movement that the government of China considers a threat to its authority. The video does not explain where the tool comes from. With a few clicks, the on-screen computer fires up a custom-built attack program, apparently giving the user a way to knock out any one of a range of websites affiliated with the movement, Falun Gong.
Computers affiliated with Falun Gong and Tibetan dissidents have been targeted in online attacks for years, in what many security experts considered to be an organized hacking campaign sponsored by the Chinese government.
China has consistently denied these allegations, but the fact that a Falun Gong attack tool has popped up in a state-sponsored video raises new questions.
The report, entitled “The Internet storm is coming!” focuses on the Pentagon’s cyberwarfare strategy, concluding that a cyber-attack against the U.S. could be construed as an act of war against a country that is prepared to fight back. The report then looks at how the Internet can affect national security and examines U.S. efforts to counter cyber-attacks.
The attack tool shows up almost as an afterthought, in a collection of b-roll footage used to give viewers something to look at while the narration continues.
During the six-second attack-tool segment (starting at 11:04 of the video), the narrator talks about how Trojans and back doors can infiltrate computers, and mentions that there are many ways to conduct online attacks.
With a few clicks, the attacker selects a website hosted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) from a list of Falun Gong websites. Buttons on the bottom of the screen say ‘attack’ and ‘cancel’.
As an attack tool, however, it isn’t exactly state of the art. It goes after a website that’s been offline for a decade.
The University of Alabama website was a personal site that once hosted Falun Gong material. The site was created “by a former student and was decommissioned in 2001 as it violated our acceptable use policy,” according to Kevin Storr, a UAB spokesman.
News of the video clip was first reported Sunday by the Epoch Times. China Central Television could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert’s e-mail address is email@example.com