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infosec-news: [ISN] Chinese Spies May Have Tried to Impersonate

[ISN] Chinese Spies May Have Tried to Impersonate Journalist Bruce Stokes

From: InfoSec News <alerts_at_nospam>
Date: Wed Feb 02 2011 - 11:13:13 GMT

By Shane Harris
Capital Comment Blog

While the candid characterizations of foreign leaders by diplomats
(“thin-skinned” Nicolas Sarkozy,“corrupt” Vladimir Putin) have received
much of the attention from the recent WikiLeaks document dump, hidden in
the flood of cables are behind-the-scenes dramas involving Washington
power players.

National Journal’s Bruce Stokes learned in the documents that, while he
was the magazine’s international-economics correspondent, he was
unknowingly the central character in an apparent Chinese espionage plot.

In 2009, five State Department employees who were negotiating with China
on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions evidently received e-mails bearing
Stokes’s name and contact information. The subject line of his purported
messages -- “China and Climate Change” -- was germane and innocuous
enough to pass as a journalist’s query. For good measure, Stokes’s
cyber-imitator included comments in the e-mails related to the
recipients’ jobs, according to a State Department cable documenting the
incident. The e-mails, though, weren’t from the offices of National
Journal. Instead they were a ruse known as “spear phishing,” in which
the sender imitates someone the recipients may know, luring them to open
the message and any attach-mints, which usually contain a computer

Stokes was a well-thought-out target: He has connections to the
diplomatic corps -- including his wife, Wendy Sherman, the Clinton
administration’s policy coordinator on North Korea and now a principal
at the Albright Stonebridge Group -- and he has known the US
climate-change envoy, Todd Stern, for years.


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