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New Cyberspy Network Uncovered

Canadian researchers have found that over 1,300 computers in 103 countries have been infected by a electronic spying operation. Computers are from hundreds of government and private offices around the world, including ones belonging to the Dalai Lama.

In a report issued Sunday, Canadian think-tank Sec-Dev Group said that computers at NATO, embassies, and governments are infected with the software that allows the attacker to gain complete control of them, the NY Times reports.

The researchers have named the network GhostNet. It can not only search the computer but see or hear the people using it, CNN reports.

“GhostNet is capable of taking full control of infected computers, including searching and downloading specific files and covertly operating attached devices, including microphones and web cameras,” the report says.

The investigation started out of suspicions that the Dalai Lama’s offices had been infected. His staff had sent a foreign diplomat an e-mail invitation to meet with the leader but before the Dalai Lama’s people could follow up with a phone call, the diplomats office was contacted by the Chinese government and cautioned not to go ahead with the meeting, the report says.

The report warns that although almost all of the computers operating the virus originate in China, there isn’t enough evidence to determine if the Chinese government is involved with the program.

"Chinese cyber espionage is a major global concern ... [b]ut attributing all Chinese malware to deliberate or targeted intelligence gathering operations by the Chinese state is wrong and misleading," the Canadian report states.