CYBERWAR: THE RISE OF CHINA

On March 15, 2012, Defining Ideas journal of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, published an article on cyber warfare (“Beware of Cyber China”) by Paul Rosenzweig, an American lawyer. Excerpts below:

American military strategists see China as the most likely peer opponent in cyberspace. As the Department of Defense’s (DoD) 2010 report to Congress, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, concluded:

numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be the target of intrusions that appear to have originated within the [People’s Republic of China]. These intrusions focused on exfiltratring information, some of which could be of strategic or of military utility.

Likewise, China sees the United States as its principal cyber-competitor. A recent report in the Chinese-language, Liberation Army Daily (an unofficial but well-vetted source) put it this way:

The U.S. military is hastening to seize the commanding military heights on the Internet, and another Internet war is being pushed to a stormy peak. . . . Their actions remind us that to protect the nation’s Internet security, we must accelerate Internet defense development and accelerate steps to make a strong Internet army. . . .

China has demonstrated significant cyber capabilities in recent years. One of the most notable events was Operation Aurora. In early 2010, Google announced that it had been the subject of a “highly sophisticated and targeted attack” that had originated in China, resulting in the “theft of intellectual property” from Google. The attacks seemed to be targeted at Chinese human rights activists. And Google was not alone—at least twenty other major companies spanning sectors including internet, finance, and the chemical industry were also targeted. At its core, the attack apparently attempted to corrupt some of Google’s source code.

Another display of Chinese capabilities occurred in April 2010, when the internet was hijacked. Traffic on the internet is, typically, routed through the most efficient route. Servers calculate that route based upon a “call-and-response” interaction with other servers—in effect, downstream servers advertise their own carrying capacity and current load, soliciting traffic.

On April 8, 2010, China Telecom began broadcasting erroneous network traffic routes. As a result, American and other foreign servers were instructed to send internet traffic through Chinese servers. In the end, according to the United States China Economic and Security Review Commission, roughly 15 percent of the world’s traffic was routed to China. This included official US government traffic, as well as the traffic from any number of commercial websites.

Even more chillingly, some reports have suggested that our electronic grid and telecommunications systems have already been infiltrated by logic bombs (malicious code inserted in a system that will be set off only upon instruction or when certain conditions are met). In 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported that software had been placed into our system, so that it could be “detonated” at a later date, presumably in a time of war. Doing so could cripple our economy and military capabilities at a time of crisis.

In the end, just as the United States has begun to prepare for a cyber war (through the organization of US Cyber Command) China, too, is preparing for one. Last May, China announced the formation of a cyber “Blue Army,” with two stated purposes: defending the nation against cyber attacks and leading cyber offensives in case of war.

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