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Someone in China has hacked the Woods Hole Institute

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The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, one of America's premiere scientific research centers, was reportedly hacked last June by unidentified forces operating in China. According to a staff letter sent by WHOI President and Director Mark Abbott this week, the institute has so far found that only emails and commercial data have been tampered with. While the WHOI does a lot of classified research for the US Navy, an institute spokesman points out that sensitive data is stored on a network separate from the one that was attacked.

"The attack was similar to those that have been experienced by many federal agencies, defense contractors and other businesses developing advanced technologies. The investigation of the attack is ongoing, however, the investigation indicates the intent was not to obtain financial or personal identity information," Abbott's letter read.

This hack comes after the US threatened sanctions against China over the Asian nation's repeated intrusions and cyber attacks against American corporations, universities and government agencies. Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to curtail such activities during his recent state visit and the Chinese government has even begun assisting in US investigations against its hackers. However, China has been pushing hard in recent years to increase its status as a maritime power -- going so far as to build its own islands in the South China Sea. Should this attack be shown to have originated from the Chinese government itself (or, at least, state-sponsored hackers), the diplomatic fallout could be enormous. But before the US government goes pointing fingers, we'll first have to wait for the WHOI's internal investigation, which is being conducted by cybersecurity firm Mandiant, to run its course.

[Image Credit: Photothek via Getty Images]

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