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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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Why ?
By chick0n on 3/12/2008 8:39:50 PM , Rating: -1
Why it is ok for US to spy/attack anybody, then if someone is doing the same thing to the US, would be consider Evil/unacceptable ?




RE: Why ?
By eye smite on 3/12/2008 9:30:23 PM , Rating: 2
Because you have your perceptions all skewed. America spies on other countries which in most cases does not involve attacking. They do that in the interests of national securiteeeeeeeee, get it?

What china is doing is sabotage not spying, there's a bit of a difference I think, but I could be wrong......


RE: Why ?
By mindless1 on 3/12/2008 10:00:22 PM , Rating: 1
It is ok because the US is the center of the galaxy and the champion of truth and justice. Now that we've entered into a campaign pledging a War On Terrorâ„¢, any action taken is excusable. If you disagree obviously you are a terrorist because we are too virtuous to have done anything whatsoever to have made any enemies, it's us good guys versus pure evil. Pick a side but either way you will respect mi authoritah!


RE: Why ?
By Alpha4 on 3/12/2008 10:07:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
War On Terrorâ„¢
Laughed... My... Ass... Off!


RE: Why ?
By Shining Arcanine on 3/12/2008 10:22:32 PM , Rating: 2
That is a loaded question. With that as a premise, there is no possible way to argue for anything but that, as it is being assumed, regardless of whether or not it is true.


RE: Why ?
By afkrotch on 3/12/2008 11:28:23 PM , Rating: 5
Spying is standard practice for any country. The difference is, that the US isn't breaking into their computer systems, planting viruses, crippling systems, etc. Shoot, US isn't even trying to break into their systems. If they did such, then they would know. The point is to get the information without being detected.

Much easier to do with a U2 flying miles above the Earth and hundreds of miles out of Chinese airspace. Monitor transmission and pick them up when they go out. Think of it as the US picks your pocket while you're walking around town. Nice and discrete. China breaks into your house, steals everything, and then rapes your daughter on the way out.


RE: Why ?
By See Spot Run on 3/13/2008 12:21:15 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Spying is standard practice for any country. The difference is, that the US isn't breaking into their computer systems, planting viruses, crippling systems, etc. Shoot, US isn't even trying to break into their systems.


Maybe the US just hasn't been caught yet?


RE: Why ?
By HrilL on 3/13/2008 1:58:17 AM , Rating: 2
I think that is the point he is making. We own them in every way other then treating our people like cattle and making toys that are made of drugs.


RE: Why ?
By afkrotch on 3/14/2008 2:01:36 AM , Rating: 2
So you're saying that China, with it's ability to break into multiple countries' highly protected network systems, that the US was somehow...not caught.

Let me reword that sentence for you.

"US is too smart and the other countries are just incompetent."

Sorry, but if the US was hacking other countries, I'm sure they'd have been caught. US might have the greatest tech, but that's cause they spend so much money for R&D. Plenty of other countries could be up there technologically for military hardware. They simply don't budget that much towards national defense spending.


RE: Why ?
By lompocus on 3/13/2008 7:55:09 AM , Rating: 1
Would you prefer China hacking your household systems on a regular basis and know you're being watched, or us doing it in an unnoticable way so you can keep on looking on all that pr0n you got in your HDD!

Hey, what if we just send the chinese a pr0n virus? They're such prudes over there in asia we'd win any war instantly once their leaders are exposed to naked chicks for the first time in their lives!


RE: Why ?
By HrilL on 3/13/2008 12:53:23 PM , Rating: 2
Rofl. You do realize that they probably have prostitutes all the time. It is the people that they control like cattle that are affected by the governments prudeness laws.


"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs














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