Cybersecurity remains a serious problem for China, with international cooperation to thwart online attacks becoming more difficult, according to a specialist.
The country's Internet security watchdog said some 5.63 million computers were controlled or affected by 13,408 threats originating from Internet provider addresses and servers in foreign countries and regions between January and May.
Of these originating IPs, 4,062 were in the United States, affecting nearly 2.91 million computers in China, which means the US still hosts the most overseas command and control servers used in the threats, it said.
"It's clear to see the number of attacks and computers affected up to May is still huge. In other words, the situation of online security remains tough," Du Yuejin, deputy chief technology officer of the National Computer Emergency Response Team and Coordination Center of China, told China Daily.
In the first five months of the year, 249 websites of government administrations, information systems and academic institutions were invaded from overseas in "back door" attacks, with 54 websites affected from US IP addresses.
"It's hard to say from the data whether these threats were made solely for political reasons, but Chinese government websites were apparently targeted more," Du said.
Du, also director with the National Institute of Network and Information Security, said he has stated his view many times at international conferences that China has always been opposed to "cyberwarfare" and wants to thwart online attacks through international cooperation.
But he said the prospects for international cooperation, especially that between governments, are not as good as before and the future is not looking hopeful.
In the early stages, cooperation between organizations can help share information, remind each other of threats and facilitate liaison in handling incidents, he said.
"If we find a cyberthreat in other countries, we'll alert related institutions in those countries ... and tackle the problem in an efficient manner. Such efficiency is the key to wiping out online attacks," Du said.
Cracking down on cyberattacks cannot be developed without cooperation between governments, but the problem has not been solved any better, he said.
"Due to some individual online security cases and distrust between governments, some cooperation mechanisms have broken down since 2010," Du said, adding that this is a "big pity".
From January to April, Du's team received 227 security complaints from overseas and dealt with 97 cases involving fake websites.
Some government administrations should enhance awareness of online security "to avoid ignorance when we remind them of online threats to their websites", he said.
Many Chinese websites and databases also have big security loopholes and lack security testing from source, providing an opportunity for hackers, he said.
Programmers and operators should carry out security tests and risk evaluation before launching a website or product, but most fail to do so, he said.
"We have found only a small number of online threats, because many others are hidden too well to be discovered and our ability to monitor is not strong," he said.
Du said his team can coordinate with departments to cope with the threats. "It's impractical to set up a single united platform to respond to all incidents across the country," he said.
Zeng Xinhua, a criminal law researcher at Beijing Normal University, said international cooperation is crucial in handling cybersecurity problems, although difficulties remain.
"Cybersecurity management systems and laws in different countries make cooperation difficult," he said. "It is hard to balance each party's interests."
Yang Shuo, an online security specialist with more than 10 years' experience, said most cooperation is based on technologies, such as sharing the latest data.
"If governments do not trust each other, international cooperation will remain difficult and the dream of a safe cyberworld will continue to be a dream," he said.