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Reports claim the U.S. and Chinese armed forces have begun to wage an escalating, silent war on the internet

Surveillance and subterfuge are timeless traditions.  In ancient Japan, daimyo ninjas carried out dangerous spy missions to the highest bidder.  Their surveillance missions and assasinations created fear and chaos within their enemies. 

More recently in the days of the Cold War, espionage expanded to an unprecedented scale as the CIA and Britain's MI6 waged silent war against the Soviet Union's KGB agents.  Telephoto cameras, spy planes and phone bugs were the most high-tech tools employed for monitoring.

Today a new war of intelligence has begun, this time online.  China, the world's most populus nation, began to exert its digital will.  The U.S. military reported numerous successful attacks on Defense Department computers originating from China.  While the U.S. military has not put it in these exact words, it indicates that the U.S. is on the verge of entering into a digital war with the Chinese government, much akin to the war of surveillance which occurred against Russia during the Cold War era. 

The Defense department reported multiple attacks over the course of the last year.  Among them was a successful June 2007 system penetration which shutdown Homeland Security networks and potentially compromised sensitive data.  The Department of Homeland security traced the attacks back to the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) and blamed the breach on lax security standards at the government contractor Unisys.  Unisys was not alone though -- in Fall 2006 hackers gained access to the Naval War College's computer network and temporarily crippled it.  And also in June of last year, another attack gained access to the unclassified Pentagon email system used by the offices of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.  The email system had to be taken offline and reworked.

Some of these attacks likely were launched by China's burgeoning free lance hacker community.  CNN, in a meeting with high profile Chinese hackers, recently discussed the attacks.  Several of the hackers claimed knowledge of friends in the Chinese underground hacking community who launched successful assaults on the Pentagon.  More interestingly, the hackers reported the Chinese government subsidized them for successful attacks.  While the Chinese government ardently denies such claims it appears, much like Japanese warlords used the ninjas of old, the Chinese government is employing these legions of hackers to create chaos and steal information on U.S. networks -- for a price.

Meanwhile, according to U.S. intelligence, the PLA is building up its own force of elite hackers to wage cyberwarfare.  A Pentagon report, released this month notes that China is expanding its military presence in "the land, air and sea dimensions of the traditional battlefield into the space and cyber-space domains."  Further, it notes,  "The PLA has established information-warfare units to develop viruses to attack enemy computer systems and networks, and tactics and measures to protect friendly computer systems and network."

The Chinese foreign ministry and its spokesman Gang Qin dismissed these intelligence assessments, calling them paranoid and misleading.  Gang stated in recent public comments that the U.S. needs "to drop its Cold War mentality."

However, few familiar with China's military efforts can deny that its cyber-warfare efforts seem particularly active.  General Kevin Chilton, who heads U.S. Strategic Command in Bellevue, Nebraska, stated, "The thing about China that gives you pause is that they've written openly about their emphasis in particular areas -- space and cyberspace ... you can kind of connect the dots."

The government is also very concerned about possible attacks on vulnerable civilian infrastructure such as power and water treatment plants.  In October 2006, according to U.S. Government Accountability Office reports, a Harrisburg, Pa., computer was hacked and software was planted that could affect the plant's water processing.  It has not been officially stated whether the attack originated from inside or outside the country.

In a statement to reporters Chilton indicated that despite China's dismissive attitude, the country is entering into a Cold War-esque digital intelligence campaign against the U.S.  He says its efforts focus on breaching U.S. military networks and mining data which can be used to steal weapons designs, monitor command decisions, and monitor the U.S. armed forces' state of combat readiness.  He states, "Twenty years ago you'd have hired somebody to go in the middle of the night with a flashlight in their teeth to open the drawer and do a bunch of photography of files.  [Today] you can do it from your home country, wherever it might be."

General Chilton also fears that future attacks may focus on crippling entire military systems, leaving entire armed forces branches without communications.  He points to such an attack against Estonia's government in the Spring of 2007, effectively shutting down the majority of Estonia's government networks.  General Chilton stated,  "You don't shut the system down completely, but you slow it down.  I would consider that an attack."

The U.S. is not alone in its belief that China is flexing its cyber-spy muscle.  The United Kingdom has accused the Chinese Army of directly trying to infiltrate British networks and steal information, including personal financial information.  It has distributed letters of warning to various financial institutions.

It will likely be virtually impossible for civilians to determine when exactly the cyberwar between China and the U.S. begins.  It appears, however, the first shots have already been fired and with reports of attacks and buildup mounting, it is clear that we are heading towards a silent cyberwar with China, if we are not engaged in one already.

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By yxalitis on 3/12/2008 7:23:45 PM , Rating: -1
So...the hackers say the Chinese Government is "subsidising" these attacks...and that's it? PROOF?

Sorry, but That is not sufficient proof to claim an entire government is deliberately hacking sensitive US sites.

RE: Proof?
By rsmech on 3/12/2008 7:53:45 PM , Rating: 5
Read the rest of the article. It tells how others agree with the threat, & don't expect hard evidence. You don't tell the one you are spying on how you do it. Sometimes you just have to believe, but common sense also dictates the same conclusion in this case. As you can also assume we have been doing the same to them.

RE: Proof?
By mendocinosummit on 3/12/2008 8:55:11 PM , Rating: 2
...and China would never let the world know that there was a successful cyber attack against them. Oh, and we wouldn't say shit either.

RE: Proof?
By lompocus on 3/12/08, Rating: 0
RE: Proof?
By eye smite on 3/12/2008 8:32:22 PM , Rating: 5
If you want proof start reading history books and look at the last 2k yrs of chinese history. Look at how they've warred, look at the warlords, look at the different emperors and dynasty's. Hell just read the book from SunTzu titled "The Art of War" and you'll understand all you need to know about their warring mentality and lust for power. It's repeated time and again throughout history, you just have to read to find that out. China is no one's friend, if you believe they want to be friends, you deserve to get used.

RE: Proof?
By lompocus on 3/12/08, Rating: 0
RE: Proof?
By eye smite on 3/12/2008 9:09:29 PM , Rating: 3
Dude I think you totally missed the point. Chinese rule in China has always been more militant than anything the US has done and they have several more centuries of that same behaviour to back that up with. I'm not against the chinese, but my point is, if you underestimate them, you've done exactly what they want you to. Duplicity within duplicity runs prevalent in most everything they do. As long as they stay across the pacific and do their own thing, I got no issues with China. If history repeats itself as it's already doing, they will contiue to lust for power and since we've given all our technology to them basically, they now have a way to make those goals come to pass. Keep your sarcasm and your drama for the politics videos on youtube.

RE: Proof?
By lompocus on 3/13/2008 8:17:03 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, I'm not being sarcastic. Just truthful in an not-so-serious way.

Think about it. What does China have to continue its, as you say, militant lust for power? You say they have the means Technology? Better troops? Really?

Besides, their 'militant lust for power' and their 'united culture' has resulted in various changes in government over the same timeframe we (US) got up. It resulted in a communist revolution. It resulted in the worst working conditions for its 2 billion inhabitants.

What, they gonna take over Japan now? Taiwan? They can't even take over Taiwan! They can't feed their own people without abandoning their prime supplier of food (US and allies)! They're still considered a third world country.

RE: Proof?
By Omega215D on 3/12/2008 9:03:08 PM , Rating: 2
And who doesn't lust for power and go to war? I'd appreciate it if you don't single out China. I say this because I've come from a shaolin upbringing.

RE: Proof?
By eye smite on 3/12/2008 9:18:48 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, so by citing chinese history and their prevalent behaviour for 2k yrs or more I'm singling them out? You suffer from perception issues. Now perhaps if I had said " those little slant eyed commie buggers can't be trusted with anything" you might have been able to draw that conclusion. I simply stated what CHINESE history shows and I even cited a book that happens to be the military bible they've used since 1300BC when it was written. Since you seem to think I'm singling them out though, what in your eyes has the country of China done to earn my respect or trust? What has it done to earn my contempt? By and large I'm neutral towards china as they don't play a pivotal role in my day to day life.

RE: Proof?
By eye smite on 3/12/2008 9:20:37 PM , Rating: 2
Thank you for proving my point about Chinese peoples militant behaviour, good form.

RE: Proof?
By Omega215D on 3/12/2008 11:23:51 PM , Rating: 2
Clearly you don't know what Shaolin truly is if that is what you believe to be proving your point.

RE: Proof?
By eye smite on 3/13/2008 7:22:17 AM , Rating: 4
and obviously you don't see your own comment saying I'm singling out chinese people as combative. Taking a defensive posture and becoming EMO due to a perception issue clearly proved my point, so again, thanks.

RE: Proof?
By seraphim1982 on 3/13/08, Rating: 0
RE: Proof?
By ksuWildcat on 3/13/2008 12:55:43 PM , Rating: 1
I have to agree with you, except that the USA has, at least in the last century, been involved in conflicts or wars about every decade or so. I suppose that one could argue that, without actual engagement, how would a country know whether or not their military is truly prepared for war. I think the reality is that the U.S. fears losing its global influence (just as you pointed out), which is why we get involved in other countries affairs.

The Chinese really aren't so different from the rest of the world. They are becoming a capitalistic country very quickly, and I think that we should view China as a potential ally rather than a threat.

RE: Proof?
By eye smite on 3/13/2008 9:18:31 PM , Rating: 4
You're the one turning this into a racist, singling out or whatever issue. I pointed to Chinese history as an example of why they behave the way they do. I did not make comparisons to any other country or culture, and if memory serves without reading up the article was about Chinese activities. However I'll point out some additional items. China removed a child emperor and established a democratic gov't in 1908. Ten yrs later that gov't was overthrown by a provincial warlord and the warlords of china began the campaign of bloodshed again from 1918 til the beginning of WW2 when Japan invaded Manchuria re-installing Henry P'u Yi the ousted emperor. Post WW2 the nation went communism which gave the warlords that still exist to this day the chance to rule the whole nation without warring amongst themselves. I'm sure there are numerous examples of events where people were put down in the name of preserving said communism, the one that comes to mind most recently is Tiananmen Square where nearly 100 people were killed like dogs in the street because OMG they protested against the gov't. So, my question to you is, how many leaders have we revolted against in the US in the last 100 yrs? How many people were slaughtered in the streets because they protested here in America in the last 100 yrs? And finally, how many times has the form of gov't changed in the good ole US in the last 100 yrs? Now, after you answer those questions, you can dry your tears, take your whining somewhere else and swallow the bitter pill proving that China is a race or predominantly militant people.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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