Because the NY Times recently exposed China's Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, for having made billions of dollars through business dealings, Chinese hackers have been trying to hack and infiltrate the NY Times for the past 4 months. Security experts say the hackers used methods consistent with the Chinese military.
According to security firm Mandiant (which was hired by the Times), the Chinese hackers tried to hide their identity by routing their attacks on the NY Times through universities in the United States. Previous hacking attacks have used this method and many of those attacks originated from China. The NY Times reports:
The attackers first installed malware - malicious software - that enabled them to gain entry to any computer on The Times's network. The malware was identified by computer security experts as a specific strain associated with computer attacks originating in China. More evidence of the source, experts said, is that the attacks started from the same university computers used by the Chinese military to attack United States military contractors in the past.
No customer data has been stolen and from what they can tell, there has been no evidence that sensitive files about the Wen family gathered through reporting have been obtained either. China has a history of hacking American companies, sometimes causing them to get hacked right back. Many of its hacking initiatives are done in order to control China's public image, along with stealing secrets. Which means this ain't the first time and it won't be the last. [NY Times]