Join our Mailing List

"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

Google puts focus on China cyberwar fears

January 24, 2010

January 21, 2010

Google Inc's threat to quit China over cyber
attacks and censorship highlights US fears that a
more powerful Beijing is tapping government and
corporate computer networks to steal secrets and
to prepare for potential conflicts.

Ties between the United States, the world's
largest economy, and China, a rising rival, are
already strained by jockeying for resources,
regional influence, currency exchange rate
advantages, trade protectionism charges and arms
sales to Taiwan, among other things.

US intelligence agencies for years have warned
government officials and corporations that
Chinese hackers have been piercing sensitive
networks and preparing for any clash as bilateral ties wax and wane.

Outsourcing, a cost-cutting strategy adopted by
many U.S. companies, contributes to the cyber
threat, according to Larry Wortzel, a member of
the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review
Commission, an advisory panel to Congress.

"Companies that locate their research and
development in China and employ Chinese citizens
to work on their software have probably made
Chinese intelligence and security services better
at computer hacking," said Wortzel, a former U.S. Army attache in Beijing.

"They learn the holes in the system and the codes
to access programs to do software updates --
trapdoors that leave the U.S. vulnerable to
attack," he said in an email interview.

Moving hardware, chip and server production to
China "gives Chinese employees or security
organizations opportunities to embed their own
code and trapdoors into the hardware as they put the code in," Wortzel said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was scheduled
to deliver on Thursday what was being billed as a
major speech on Internet freedom. "The ability to
operate with confidence in cyberspace is critical
in a modern society and economy," said Kurt
Campbell, the department's top official for East Asia.

Skills could help wartime attacks

Google owns the world's most popular Internet
search engine. It jolted U.S.-China ties with its
Jan. 12 announcement that it had faced a "highly
sophisticated and targeted attack" in mid-December allegedly from inside China.

Targeted at the same time, Google said, were more
than 20 other companies in finance, technology,
media and chemicals. At issue, it said, was more
than a simple security breach, though Google said
a primary target was dissidents' email accounts.

The U.S. State Department is pressing China for
an explanation of the incidents described by Google.

U.S. military and government networks "continue
to be the target of intrusions that appear to
have originated from within" China, Navy Admiral
Robert Willard, head of the U.S. Pacific Command,
said on Jan. 13, one day after Google aired its complaint.

While most penetrations are fishing expeditions,
Willard told the House of Representatives Armed
Services Committee "the skills being demonstrated
would also apply to wartime computer network attacks."

U.S. national security officials and independent
security experts increasingly are voicing alarm
about alleged Chinese cyber espionage. For its
part, Washington also has a vast espionage corps
to steal secrets for its security interests.

China's embassy dismissed any suggestion that
Beijing was behind cyber attacks against U.S. interests.

"As China is more than ever integrated with the
rest of the world through, and reliant on, the
Internet, it has no reason to do anything that
will harm or backfire on its own interests," Wang
Baodong, an embassy spokesman, said by email.

Last February, Dennis Blair, the director of
national intelligence, said state and non-state
foes were targeting U.S. telecommunications
networks, Internet and critical industries'
technological underpinning. Cyber attacks were
growing more sophisticated and more serious, he
said, singling out Russian and Chinese capabilities.

Chinese hackers' tracks have been detected inside
some U.S. electricity grids and they "don't seem
to care about getting caught," said Joel Brenner,
former director of the Office of the National CounterIntelligence Executive.

"Do I worry about those grids, and about air
traffic control systems, water supply systems,
and so on? You bet I do. Our networks are being
mapped," Brenner told an April 3 forum at the University of Texas at Austin.

China is also preparing for any clash over Taiwan.

James Mulvenon of the Center for Intelligence
Research and Analysis, a consultant to U.S.
intelligence agencies, said hackers controlled by
Beijing might target U.S. logistics and other
support systems in a crisis over the self-ruled island.

"The Chinese military appears to believe that
they can use hacking to exploit our perceived
dependencies on cyber systems, and thereby
disrupt our deployment to a regional
contingency," Mulvenon said in an email interview.

China deems Taiwan a rogue province subject to
unification with the mainland, if necessary by
force. The United States is Taiwan's main arms
supplier and is mandated by the 1979 Taiwan
Relations Act to aid its self-defense.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review
Commission told Congress two months ago that
Chinese authorities seem to be recruiting skilled
cyber operators from information technology firms
and computer science programs into the ranks of
"Information Warfare Militia units."

The Daily Beast last week cited what it called a
classified FBI report that estimated China's army
has more than 30,000 cyberspies plus more than
150,000 private-sector computer experts assigned
to steal U.S. military and technology secrets. The FBI declined to comment.

In its China complaint, Google linked to the
commission's report and to a study done for it by
Northrop Grumman Corp, the Pentagon's No. 3
supplier by sales. The study said Beijing
appeared to be conducting "a long-term,
sophisticated, computer network exploitation
campaign" against the government and U.S. defense industries.

Overall, the United States faces "an
exceptionally serious" challenge, said Linton
Wells II, acting chief information officer at the
U.S. Defense Department in 2004 and 2005.

"Corporate intellectual property is being stolen
in many fields: information technology,
bio-technology, defense industrial base,
financial, transportation, energy, and others,"
said Wells, now at the National Defense
University's Center for Technology and National
Security Policy. "Critical components on which
our economy, government and national security are based are at risk."

In June, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates
ordered the creation of the military's first
headquarters to mesh Pentagon efforts in the
emerging cyberspace battlefield and
computer-network security arenas. The new command
will develop offensive cyber weapons as well as defend against them.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank