Information Warfare: China's Big Vulnerability

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December 3, 2005: While China makes no secret of its intention of using Cyber War in any future conflict with the United States, it seems to be ignoring the fact that such tactics work both ways. China is becoming increasingly dependent on the Internet, with over a hundred million users and much of the nation's economy dependent on being connected. How is that a problem? How about because this year some 80 percent of Chinese PCs were found to be infected with one kind of virus or another. That's actually the good news. Last year, the infection rate was some 88 percent. The problem has been noted, both by the Chinese government, and potential Chinese enemies. The Chinese realize that if hackers and cyber criminals can get viruses into that many PCs, so can Cyber Warriors from the United States. The communist bureaucrats who run the country have declared war on computer viruses, and the degree to which China's computers are vulnerable to attack. Unfortunately, the bureaucracy is not really capable of solving the problem. Yes, the reduction in infections in the last year is hailed as good news. But this cure is not going to get far enough to offer the degree of protection U.S. PC users have. The problem is money, and skills. In the United States, companies can afford protective software (firewalls, anti-virus software) and have people available to install and maintain these defenses. The U.S. is still vulnerable, but in China there is even greater vulnerability. China does not have as many skilled PC users, although the hacking exploits of the elite Chinese programmers and Internet users makes it seem otherwise. The United States has a far deeper bench, and it will take China many years to close the skills gap. Chinese businesses want to clean up their PCs, but the peacetime threat is not disruptive enough to make it a priority, and the government doesn't have the resources to make it happen. If this changes, then the Chinese Cyber War threat becomes more formidable, since the Chinese can attack with some confidence they can survive a counter-strike.

 


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