Cyber Tensions Flare Amongst U.S., Chinese Military
March 12, 2008 5:28 PM
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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.
, 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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3/13/2008 9:56:40 AM
Dude you are the one targeting Chinese people, blatanly putting generalizations on them. Which is blantantly discriminating and stereotyping. Ignorant people like you make me sick. By citing Chinese History you make your argument irrelevent. Western Culture has been in a war almost every 50 years since the Middle Ages, so don't give me that bullshit. Similiar with the Americans who have been in a war almost every 50 years. Chinese have done things MORE militant than the US???? OK, the US uses the CIA to push cout de tate in countries where they try to extert their political influence.
3/13/2008 12:55:43 PM
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.
3/13/2008 9:18:31 PM
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.
"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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