Information Warfare: Payback Against China

Archives

August 5, 2012: The U.S. is being more open about its growing body of evidence documenting Chinese Cyber War attacks on America and the West. This openness was prompted by a Wikileaks emails from last year that made reference to U.S. and European efforts to track the growing number of hacker attacks on government and military organizations. The emails revealed that Western computer security officials have been increasingly aware of details of the Chinese efforts over the last five years. Until the Wikileaks incident, this was kept secret because the Chinese have been careful to hide their hacks, if only so they could return and not have to work their way through much stronger defenses. The Chinese hackers also kept a low profile because their governments' only response to victims was "it wasn't us, we know nothing, we are being hacked too." That last item is true, the first two are not.

The five year long counter-intelligence effort uncovered details of how as many as twenty separate Chinese hacking groups were apparently assigned targets in a decade long campaign to steal as much technical, political, and military secrets as possible and not get caught. The Chinese hackers were very careful about avoiding detection, and many times when they were detected, they quickly reacted, covering their tracks as much as possible and, in general, trying to confuse their pursuers.

But the Chinese got cocky after a while. That, and the law of probabilities, caught up with them. Eventually the Western security experts found flaws in some of the tools the Chinese were using and built a "tap" on the activity of many of the Chinese hacking groups. The Chinese found out about this, or at least confirmed their suspicions, last year and have since cleaned up their tools and procedures. Recent revelations by American researchers seemed to taunt the Chinese with hints that the taps are still working and that the hackers are still being hacked. This is a little bit of payback for years of Chinese successes against Western Internet security.

The big problem now is how does the West react to this massive campaign of espionage and theft? In the past such a massive theft has been considered grounds for war but that is seen as impractical. Wrecking the Chinese economy and risking an exchange of nuclear weapons won't undo the damage. But there has to be some kind of action to halt, or at least discourage, the attacks. Apparently the U.S. leadership has secretly agreed, after years of requests, to let the Pentagon retaliate via the Internet. Thus China's complaints about being hacked have credence. In fact, this declaration of open season on China could do a lot of untraceable (or at least deniable) damage to China's economy, not to mention the security of their government and military networks. With all the corruption going on in China, especially by senior Chinese officials and their families, selective leaks of some secret documents, or just the gist of what was in them, could do a lot of damage to the Chinese leadership. It looks like round two of the first Cyber War is entering phase two, as the victims strike back.

 


Article Archive

Information Warfare: Current 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 


X

ad
0
20

Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close