Exclusive: Recent White House Hacking Originated From Shanghai Jiaotong University

October 15, 2012 Updated: April 8, 2013

 A remarkably underplayed White House hacking that happened earlier this month originated from the Shanghai Jiaotong University in China, according to an Epoch Times Chinese source.

The cyberattack on the White House happened on Oct. 1 (which the CCP incidentally commemorates as the day it took over all of mainland China in 1949), and is regarded as the highest-level diplomatic cyber-breach so far. A spear-phishing attack employed on a White House staff is believed to have allowed hackers to temporarily access White House computer systems, though the White House maintained in press statements that the attack was quickly caught and that no major or classified networks were breached.

The White House refused to provide information on the attackers, but the Washington Free Beacon stated definitively that the attacks originated from China, and the White House did not deny the report.

While the attacks were downplayed, media sources have reported that the attack had a specific target: the White House Military Office and sensitive wartime data such as nuclear launch codes.

A source told The Epoch Times that the White House attack originated from Shanghai Jiaotong University, which has been named in other cyberattacks on computers and networks outside of China and is a festering breeding ground for Chinese regime-backed cyberattacks. But an even darker history lies behind the university’s involvement in cyberwarfare.

Shanghai Jiaotong University’s History in Cyber-Warfare

Shanghai Jiaotong last rose to international notoriety in 2010, when it was named as one of two Chinese universities responsible for a massive cyber-attack on the servers of search giant Google as well as 20 other Western companies. Google came out publicly after the attack—titled “Operation Aurora” by security experts—and named China as the origin of the attacks. Other companies confirmed to have been hit in the cyber-attack were Adobe Systems, Juniper Networks, and Rackspace. It is also believed that Yahoo, Symantec, Northrop Grumman, Morgan Stanley, and Dow Chemical were also among the targets. All targets were major technology, defense, or energy companies in the United States.

The Aurora attacks were part of an “advanced persistent threat” (APT) attack, a term that cybersecurity experts use to describe a precise and persistent attack by someone with enough resources to sustain a long-term attack. The Stuxnet worm which infiltrated Iranian nuclear plants is believed to be another example of an APT. The Aurora attacks from China happened during late 2009 over a period of a few months, and lead to Google leaving China in a very public move in early 2010.

The Epoch Times confirmed in an exclusive report that the Aurora attacks that targeted Google were authorized by the highest levels of the Chinese Politburo, particularly Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang.

Jiang Zemin’s Connection

Shanghai Jiaotong University is the alma mater for one infamous Chinese leader: Jiang Zemin. And it is widely known in China that Jiang has close ties with the university.

In China, each top university finds a high level CCP official to cover its back. In the 1980s, Shanghai Jiaotong University had Wang Zhen, a member of the CCP Central Committee Political Bureau, who later became the vice president of China, as support from Beijing. However, the university could not find a strong tie in the hometown city of Shanghai. When Jiang Zemin became the mayor of Shanghai in 1985, the principal of the university immediately invited Jiang to give a talk on campus and considered him a lucky tie the university finally found in the city.

In 1986, students of Shanghai Jiaotong University started a student movement asking for democratic elections of people’s congress members. When students gathered in front of City Hall asking for a dialogue with the mayor, Jiang did not dare show up to meet with the students. Many students got disappointed with this special alumni, calling him “no talent, no courage.”

Jiang worked with university top management to investigate and punish the students after police quieted the movement. This was part of a nationwide student movement that triggered the rift between Hu Yaobang and other senior CCP leaders.

In 1989, another major student movement started in Beijing. Deng Xiaoping wanted to crack down on it with tanks. Wan Li, Chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, a close personal friend of Deng and an ally of Zhao Zhiyan, was visiting North America. Zhao Zhiyan and many students held hope that Wan would come back to Beijing to call for a Congress Standing Committee meeting—the only hope to prevent a crackdown.

On Wan’s way back to Beijing, Jiang Zemin, following Deng Xiaoping’s direction, stopped Wan Li in Shanghai before he could board his connecting flight to the capital. Jiang successfully delayed Wan from going to Beijing. This was considered as Jiang’s most successful gesture of support for Deng’s decision on the Tiananmen Square crackdown. And it was the main reason why Deng named Jiang as the top person in the CCP.

Once in power, Jiang initiated a violent crackdown on the Chinese meditation practice Falun Gong in 1999, using that as an opportunity to further strengthen his leadership.

Being full aware of how much blood was on his hands, Jiang never stopped building allies to ensure his safety. He kept a working relationship with Shanghai Jiaotong University and reinvigorated the relationship even after stepping down as Party leader in 2004. After he went back to Shanghai, he lived very close to the university and used the campus to make public appearances to show support for his allies.

Within months, cyber-attacks from China—which had initially targeted overseas dissidents including Falun Gong practitioners—began to balloon and target other political power centers. A sophisticated and state-funded effort to breed hackers ready to launch cyberwarfare was initiated, originating at Shanghai Jiaotong University under Jiang’s watchful eye, ready to strike when Jiang and his clique needed to.

Shortly after the buzz around the Aurora attacks on Google was announced, the New York Times interviewed professors at Shanghai Jiaotong University, one of whom said, “I’m not surprised. Actually students hacking into foreign Web sites is quite normal.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that “a student at Shanghai Jiaotong University claimed involvement in a 2001 hack that brought down the White House Web site.” The Chronicle goes into more detail, specifically about cyberattacks on the White House, as well as a “Taiwanese Internet company and a Fox News affiliate in the Washington, D.C., area.” which were traced back to one student, Peng Yinan, who had founded a hacking group under the watch of senior university officials.

Shanghai Jiaotong University officially denied involvement in the cyber-attacks, but growing evidence is pointing in the other direction. The Chronicle article touches on a couple more points, stating that the aforementioned student, Peng, “became a consultant for the Shanghai Public Security Bureau,” while “another student who signed his name to Javaphile Web-site defacements went on to work for a while for Google.”

With the CCP falling into spectacular crisis in the wake of Wang Lijun’s defection and Bo Xilai’s fall, the Jiang clique appears to be fighting with its backs to the wall to ensure survival, even if it means all-out warfare. The timing of the cyberattack on the White House indicates that the nexus of Bo-Zhou-Jiang may be attempting to raise the stakes in the high profile battle for their survival, attempting to stoke the China-Japan unrest further and escalate it even further to cause instability in China and within the leadership.