Immense 'GhostNet' Computer Spy System Is Going to Put Cranky Windows Guy Over the EdgeS

If you thought Cranky Windows Guy was angry now, this vast spy system we read about today—targeting 103 countries—is really going to be the piss in his corn flakes that ruins the weekend.

More seriously, the New York Times reports that this gigantic spy system has targeted and exploited computers in governments agencies around the world. Even the Dalai Lama, famed Tibetan exile, has had files corrupted in some way. In fact, the spy system was discovered when the esteemed Dalai Lama asked Canadian firm Munk Center for International Studies to do a little anti-virus work on his computer network.

Which leads us to the source of the ring. Evidence all but proves that China (infamous for its anti-Lama rhetoric) is the country of origin, as pretty much all the controlling computers resided within its borders. Gasp!

More than 1,295 computers in 103 countries were affected in some way by the spynet, and the researchers say it's the largest such ring ever discovered, in terms of the number of countries involved. The Chinese government has not been *officially* fingered as the originator, but I wouldn't fault you a bit if you were a little suspicious:

The electronic spy game has had at least some real-world impact, they said. For example, they said, after an e-mail invitation was sent by the Dalai Lama's office to a foreign diplomat, the Chinese government made a call to the diplomat discouraging a visit. And a woman working for a group making Internet contacts between Tibetan exiles and Chinese citizens was stopped by Chinese intelligence officers on her way back to Tibet, shown transcripts of her online conversations and warned to stop her political activities.

For their part, the Chinese have denounced the ring publicly, and researchers did caution that this could be the work of a private firm of "patriotic hackers."

Other GhostNet highlights include the ability to turn on webcams and microphones remotely, and a browser-based "dashboard" that the spies use to control their network of 1,295 computers. And yes, I mean a dashboard as in what you use to post those American Idol rants to your Wordpress blog. Researchers discovered the spynet using, of all things, a Google search.

The network continues to operate, by the way, which leads me to... Hey Frucci, you haven't been cavorting with the Dalai Lama lately, have you? [New York Times]