GhostNet: Did the Chinese government hack the world?

"Just because a Chinese computer is implicated, it doesn't mean China itself is behind the attack."

Because of this, Cluley warns against accusing the Chinese state directly in this case, but also recognised that it would be nave to say that the Chinese wouldn't consider using the internet and malware in this way.

He said: "Countries are spying on each other all across the world for political, commercial and military advantage they would be nuts not to try and exploit the power of the internet to increase their chances of success."

He added: "I'm sure China is using the net to spy on governments and businesses overseas for commercial and possibly military advantage.

"But then I'm sure that the US, Israel, the UK and others are doing it too."

Other researchers who helped in the research of GhostNet weren't so shy about accusing the Chinese state of perpetrating the malware.

Two computer researchers who worked on a report for the University of Cambridge directly accused the Chinese government of compromising the computing infrastructure of the Tibetan government and the Dalai Lama.

Ross Anderson of the University of Cambridge and Shishir Nagaraja of the University of Illinois came to the conclusion that the Chinese state used social phishing (well-written malware with well-designed email lures) to install rootkits on a number of machines to download sensitive data.

Cybercriminal threat

The researchers went further in their research. They said that there was nothing to stop the attacks the Chinese government used from being used by smaller opponents like capable motivated individuals' such as cybercriminals.