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One third of the world's cyberattacks come from China, Chinese government feigns ignorance

In a newly published document entitled "ADMINISTRATION STRATEGY ON MITIGATING THE THEFT OF U.S. TRADE SECRETS" [PDF], the White House threatens China and other countries with both trade and diplomatic consequences if cyberattacks on U.S. corporations, media, and advocacy groups continue to be traced to their doorstep.

I. Brazen Attacks by Chinese Continue

At a White House press conference, Attorney General Eric Holder paints a grim picture of the state of cyberdefense, commenting, "There are only two categories of companies affected by trade-secret theft: those that know they've been compromised and those that don't know it yet.  A hacker in China can acquire source code from a software company in Virginia without leaving his or her desk."

Many top companies, including General Motors Comp. (GM), E. I. DuPont De Nemours and Comp. (DD), Google Inc. (GOOG), and American Superconductor, Corp. (AMSC), have seen trade secrets stolen by hackers in China.  At the press conference John Powell, general counsel for American Superconductor, shared a particularly troubling tale of how a big Chinese wind company -- formerly the largest client of his firm -- recruited a former employee and used their knowledge to remotely steal trade secrets.  He comments, "It's a real threat and it's a really costly threat."

Eric Holder
AG Eric Holder blasted Chinese cyberagression and called for tough action if attacks continue.
[Image Source: AP]

Pressure is mounting on the U.S. federal government, particularly the Obama administration, to give a stronger response in the wake of brazen attacks from China on U.S. media agencies including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.  

Reports have emerged that these attacks may all have been the work of an elite unit of Chinese military hackers.  While the U.S. works hard to imprison many of its most talented "black hat" hackers, China reportedly goes to great lengths to recruit its own black hats, lavishing them with rock star salaries and other perks.

II. Government Struggles With How to Counter Chinese Aggression

The document is ambiguous on how the U.S. will respond, but it makes it clear that Washington D.C. is well aware of the attacks from China on top U.S. corporations.  Currently, the ability to mount a strong counteroffensive is stifled by the relative "greenness" of America's cyber-fighting force. This force is composed mostly of straight-shooting college IT types, many of whom have never hacked into a system they weren't allowed to.  

Over the last year, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been showing up at top hacker conventions trying to convince more talented hackers to join its ranks -- but such efforts remain in their infancy and are being heavily stifled by animosity from the hacker community over punitive computer crimes law enforcement.

Security firm Akama Technologies, Inc. (AKAM) estimates that in 2012 33 percent of attack traffic originated from China.  By contrast, the U.S. -- in second place -- only claimed 13 percent of global attack contract.  Chinese government officials claim that hacking is illegal in China and that its own companies are also victimized by their domestic hackers.  However, many of the attacks appear to be geared towards suppressing dissidents or attacking U.S. media entities that expose secrets of Chinese politicians.

China hackers
Chinese hackers are responsible for a third of the world's cyberattacks. [Image Source: Kealtu]

The result is that the cyberwar between the U.S. and China is playing out as a classic bully-victim situation.  China denies everything while constantly abusing both U.S. government agencies and private companies.  And experts believe the U.S. is doing far precious little to fight back.

Last week, President Obama signed a cybersecurity executive order calling for voluntary corporate information sharing on security risks.  Congress is in the process of establishing a more rigid framework for the sharing.

James Lewis, a former top State Department official who is now a cybersecurity specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, praised the Obama administration's actions in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, stating, "This is what you have to do to get the Chinese to behave differently.  You've got to keep pushing on them; you've got to keep grinding."

Trade pacts like the Trans-Pacific Partnership may provide a forum to push for stricter intellectual property protections.  And Mr. Lewis suggests that the U.S. could put pressure on China by denying Chinese companies access to American banks, or by denying Chinese researchers visas, if attacks continue.

Sources: The White House {PDF], The Wall Street Journal

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RE: America's Next Top Target
By Ammohunt on 2/21/2013 8:12:42 PM , Rating: 2
This is human nature; its a basic need of human to be superstitious as well humans can’t exist without some sort of mythos if its not religion its 911 truthers, aliens any number of conspiracy theories even atheism in itself fills that void. People’s lives are too easy the base rot in our society comes from people being bored because of that easy life so they fill it with nastiness towards others.

RE: America's Next Top Target
By SlyNine on 2/21/2013 9:40:16 PM , Rating: 5
You guys are going off the deep-end here. Your statements are nothing but conjectur.

It's a nice hypothisis but please keep in mind it could be total BS and you could be completely wrong.

Perhaps social factors play a bigger role.

Perhaps China really is a problem.

Perhaps Government are trying to distract Americas with a "bigger" problem.

But please stop this pseudopsychology. You sound like nut jobs.

RE: America's Next Top Target
By ninelite on 2/21/2013 11:18:13 PM , Rating: 4
We are just guessing along with the government here.
Does the US government has solid proof that Chinese government launched the cyber attack?
How about proof on the Weapon of Mass Destruction?
Or proof that War on Terror can reduced the world-wide terrorist attacks?
Instead of raising taxes and wasting money on all these "conjecture," I would feel much better if they focus on the debt crisis, gun control and all kind of local problems. Fix our own problems before nose around others'.

RE: America's Next Top Target
By espaghetti on 2/22/2013 8:47:41 AM , Rating: 2
The most we got out of Iraq was this:

It's not exactly a weapon of mass destruction.

RE: America's Next Top Target
By Breathless on 2/22/2013 12:38:19 PM , Rating: 3
We don't have a problem with gun control. We have a problem with douchebags trying to control our guns.

RE: America's Next Top Target
By NellyFromMA on 2/22/2013 1:05:27 PM , Rating: 2
WRong arguement. We have a problem with the mentally unstable obtaining weapons for mass assaults, both legall and illegally.

You'll have a WAY better time getting an acceptable outcome on this if you actually address the REAL issue.

RE: America's Next Top Target
By Jaybus on 2/22/2013 4:15:37 PM , Rating: 2
I can tell you that the servers I manage for a pharmaceutical company came under attack from IPs located in China immediately following a trip one of our execs made to Shanghai to discuss licensing and approval for a cancer drug. We get attempts every day, but they come from all over. After his trip, actually DURING his trip, attempts skyrocketed with more than 90% of the attempts coming from China. It was not a high profile trip, by any means. No PR or anything. It is not proof that a particular entity did it, but somebody in China did. Coincidence? I very much doubt it.

RE: America's Next Top Target
By Ammohunt on 2/22/2013 12:15:07 PM , Rating: 2
Like you posses some secret truths please....get over yourself. The OP had a good point that was valid and within the realm of the human condition and the conversation.

By BifurcatedBoat on 2/22/2013 1:32:54 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe it's very simple, and people - like other animals - are usually looking to get ahead at someone/something else's expense. So is it surprising that China would be doing it? Not really. Is it surprising that we would be doing it? Not really. What's more surprising is not standing up for yourself and trying to protect your position.

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