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China paper scoffs at suggestion Beijing is hacking villain

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's top official newspaper on Friday dismissed as irresponsible suggestions Beijing was the "state actor" behind massive Internet hacking of governments and companies that security company McAfee this week said it had discovered.

The report in the People's Daily, the main mouthpiece of China's ruling Communist Party, did not quote any official reaction to the hacking allegations but is the closest to an official response that Beijing has given to the McAfee report.

McAfee said this week that it discovered a five-year long campaign of cyber attacks on the networks of governments, organisations and businesses.

It did not name the "state actor" it believed was behind the attacks but several experts pointed the finger at China.

Not so, said the People's Daily.

"Linking China to Internet hacking attacks is irresponsible," it said.

"The McAfee report claims that a 'state actor' engaged in hacking for a large-scale Internet espionage operation, but its analysis clearly does not stand up to scrutiny."

McAfee said the 72 victims in the hacking campaign included the governments of the United States, Taiwan, India, South Korea, Vietnam and Canada. Other targets were the United Nations, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the International Olympic Committee; and an array of companies, from defense contractors to high-tech enterprises.

Jim Lewis, a cyber expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, earlier told Reuters it was very likely China was behind the hacking because some of the targets had information that would be of special interest only to Beijing.

McAfee's report said the attacks were the biggest ever discovered.

The People's Daily cited comments on the Internet that suggested McAfee published the report to alarm people into buying more of its cyber security technology.

"In fact, as the number of hacking attacks on prominent international businesses and organisations has grown this year, some Western media have repeatedly depicted China as the villain behind the scenes," said the paper.

The Chinese government has used the People's Daily to round on earlier foreign claims of hacking.

In early June, Google said it suspected Chinese hackers of trying to steal the passwords of hundreds of Google email account holders, including those of U.S. government officials, Chinese rights activists and journalists.

The overseas edition of the People's Daily hit back by saying that Google had become a "political tool" used to vilify the Chinese government, and warning that the U.S. Internet giant's statements could hurt its business.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Ken Wills and Jonathan Thatcher)

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