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Dalai Lama's Chinese website infecting visitors' computers, expert warns

Monday, 12 Aug 2013 | 11:49 PM ET
The Dalai Lama
Getty Images | Lisa Maree Williams
The Dalai Lama

A prominent computer security firm has warned that the Dalai Lama's Chinese-language website has been compromised and is infecting visitors' computers with malicious software that could be used for spying on them.

Kaspersky Lab researcher Kurt Baumgartner told Reuters that he is advising web surfers to stay away from the Central Tibetan Administration's Chinese-language site until the organization fixes the bug.

He said he believes the group behind the campaign was also behind previous breaches on the site which have gone unreported as well as attacks on websites belonging to groups that focus on human rights in Asia.

Officials with the Office of Tibet in New York could not be reached for comment. That office houses the Dalai Lama's official representative to the United States.

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Baumgartner said that the Chinese-language site of the Central Tibetan Administration, which is the official organ of the Dalai Lama's government in exile, has been under constant attack from one group of hackers since 2011, though breaches have been quietly identified and repaired before garnering public attention.

"They have been trying repeatedly to find vulnerabilities in the site," he said.

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He said that it is safe to visit the group's English and Tibetan sites.

He said he believes the same group of attackers has repeatedly infected the site with malicious software that automatically drops viruses on computers running Microsoft's Windows and Apple's Mac operating systems. They infect machines by exploiting security bugs in Oracle's Java software.

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That gives them "back doors" into those computers. "This is the initial foothold. From there, they can download arbitrary files and execute them on the system," Baumgartner said.

An Oracle spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's 78-year-old exiled spiritual leader, fled China to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

Beijing considers the globetrotting monk and author a violent separatist and Chinese state media routinely vilify him. The Dalai Lama, who is based in India, says he is merely seeking greater autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

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