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Did not want to discover Apple secrets

Chinese hackers have been attacking the The New York Times, infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees.

It is not quite clear why the Chinese would be so interested in Apple’s unpaid press office, but it might not be about finding out Jobs’ Mob secrets. In October The New York Times paused its breathless coverage of Apple and actually published a real news story about the wealth of the family of China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, in both English and Chinese.

The timing of the attacks coincided with the reporting for a Times investigation, which found that the relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings. Aware that such an attack might be happening, the Times hired some experts to detect and block the computer attacks.  The hackers users methods that some consultants have associated with the Chinese military in the past. They broke into the e-mail accounts of its Shanghai bureau chief, David Barboza, who wrote the reports on Wen’s relatives, and Jim Yardley, The Times’s South Asia bureau chief in India, who previously worked as bureau chief in Beijing.

No sensitive e-mails or files from the reporting of our articles about the Wen family were accessed, downloaded or copied. What makes the attacks interesting is that the hackers first took down computers at United States universities and routed the attacks through them. The attackers first installed malware to gain entry to any computer on The Times’s network. This malware is also associated with computer attacks originating in China.

More than 53 employees, most of them outside The Times’s newsroom where hacked.