Investigators probing the recent ransacking of International Monetary Fund computers have concluded the attack was carried out by cyber spies connected to China, according to two people close to the investigation.
Computer specialists have spent several weeks piecing together information about the attack, which the IMF disclosed on June 8. Internal IMF e-mails obtained by Bloomberg News suggest fund officials completed an inventory of stolen documents by the middle of July, and drafted an “operational impact assessment.” The results have not been made public.
Evidence pointing to China includes an analysis of the attack methods, as well as the electronic trail left by hackers as they removed large quantities of documents from the IMF’s computers. The multistaged attack, which used U.S.-based servers as part of their equipment, ended on May 31, people involved in the investigation said on the condition they not be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak about it.
Their conclusion is likely to be a major test for the new IMF chief, Christine Lagarde, who this month appointed Chinese economist Zhu Min as deputy managing director, giving China a much expanded role in the institution.
“There are some very big questions about the role that China wants to play in the global economic system and what role it can play given some of its behavior,” said C. Fred Bergsten, who heads the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics.
The timing of the attack and China’s lobbying for more influence at the Fund appear to overlap, creating a potentially embarrassing situation for China among the IMF’s 186 other members, including the U.S.