Wednesday, December 19, 2007

China's War in the Cyber Arena

Estonia accused Russian government of waging cyber war by launching massive attacks on internet in the Baltic Republic this past February and May. Urmas Paet, the Estonian Foreign Minister, accused the Kremlin of direct involvement in attempts to paralyse Estonian official websites. Estonian internet experts have traced the internet protocol (IP) addresses that identify individual computers back to systems used by Russian authorities.

Likewise, China is also accused by the Western world as well as Russia, but it seems more serious than Russia’s case. In early November, China promulgated an orde for the arrest of a Taiwanese and claimed that he was a commander who dominated hacks on Chinese website. However, some Taiwanese newspapers said that it was a smoke ball to distract from the focus of some internet hacks on Western countries’ official websites that could be referred to China’s actions of invasions on the internet.

There are a lot of internet hacks reported by Western countries and most are related to China in the past several years. In April 2001, a BBC report titled “US fears Chinese hack attack” said that rising tensions between the United States and China have sparked an online tit-for-tat between hackers in both countries. In the end of May 2007, BBC had another report titled “US under Chinese hack attack” and reported that the hackers based in China have begun a co-ordinated offensive against computer networks in the United States. That incident greatly increased political tensions between the US and China, but there is no evidence linking the government in Beijing to the hacker offensive.

China was also accused of hacking into German Prime Minister Merkel’s administration in August 2007. The news said that China hacked into the computers of Angela Merkel’s Chancellery and three other German ministries in an extraordinary economic espionage operation that threatened to blight the German leader’s already delicate trip to Beijing, yet, denied by China.

In September 2007, a report by The Times entitled “China’s cyber army is preparing to march on America, says Pentagon” mentioned that China’s ambitions have extended to crippling an enemy’s financial, military and communications capabilities early in a conflict, according to US intelligence officials. A Pentagon assessment states that China’s military regards offensive computer operations as “critical to seize the initiative” in the first stage of a war.

Also in September 2007, The Times had another report titled, “China tops list of cyber-hackers seeking UK government secrets Michael Evans,” and said that China has been hacking into government computers that contain Britain’s military and foreign policy secrets. The emergence of Beijing as one of the most hostile state hackers has been highlighted in the United States, with allegations that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army tried to extract secrets from a computer in the Pentagon office of Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary. However, Beijing always denies launching cyber attacks against the Pentagon and the UK. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that there had been “wild allegations” against China, reflecting a “Cold War mentality.”

On 5 September 2007, The Times again reported that the United States and Britain are not the first targets of state-sponsored Chinese hack attacks, and they won’t be the last, one veteran network security expert who worked with numerous governments said with the title “China vs. the West: an ongoing digital struggle.”

Of course, China always makes a negation on the reports above. According to an analysis from Berkman Centre for Internet & Society of Harvard University in 2004, more 300,000 “internet militaries” work all over China. China not only built the Great Firewall and the Golden Shield to censor the internet, but organized large number of internet militaries to monitor users of the internet and hack other countries’ websites to bring asymmetric wars into force. In 1999, two Chinese commissioned officers published a book titled “Unrestricted Warfare,” in which they described the next generation war that China would like to call into action. Today, we should understand the information war is a part of unrestricted warfare of China; it is the asymmetric war China claims as well. During the past years, it was also reported that Taiwanese official websites were attacked by China; it really shows that China has taken the asymmetric war into play.

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