A February 2009 story in Popular Science magazine based on interviews with Henderson, said that Yinan in September 2000 established a group at Shanghai Jiahnton University called Javaphile. The group, originally meant to be a forum for discussing physics and programming topics, turned to hacking amid the outrage over the plane collision, according to the Popular Science .
"On May 20, 2003, a man named Peng Yinan, then known only by the moniker coolswallow, logged into a public Shanghai Jiaotong University student forum and described how he formed a group at the university's Information Security Engineering School that coordinated with other hackers to bring down whitehouse.gov in 2001," the story said. The same individual also bragged about how his group had defaced other sites deemed to be anti-Chinese.
Over the next two years, Yinan and his accomplices allegedly broke into a Taiwanese firm's home page and defaced it with an obscenity opposing its pro-independence movement. Yinan also is alleged to have broken into a couple of U.S Navy Web sites and the Fox News Web site following the U.S invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to the magazine.
Henderson meanwhile has also linked Yinan to a Jiaotong University graduate student group called Beasts of Burden Society, for which he delivered an October 2007 lecture titled "Hacker in a Nutshell."
"According to the press release, Peng Yinan is a security information consultant for the Shanghai Public Security Bureau and a senior hacker," Henderson wrote in his blog. As recently as 2008, Yinyan was invited back to Jiaotong University to give a career talk to graduate students at the university's Information Security Engineering School, Henderson's blog notes.
There's nothing in either the Popular Science story or Henderson's blog to suggest that Jiaotong University was in any way directly or indirectly involved with Yinan's alleged activities -- or was even aware of them.
The Lanxiang vocational school, meanwhile, was described by the Times as a school that trains some computer scientists for the Chinese military and whose computer network is operated by a company with close ties to Google rival Baidu.
According to the Times , security analysts are divided over whether the schools are being used as a camouflage for government operations or were a cover for an intelligence operation run by someone else.
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld . Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Read more about cybercrime and hacking in Computerworld's Cybercrime and Hacking Knowledge Center.