China: There is No Cyber War With the United States

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

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Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai issued statements to the press in an effort to dispel the notion that China and the United States are engaged in cyber warfare activities aimed at undermining the other's security posture.

"I want to clear something up: there are no contradictions between China and the United States. Though hackers attack the US Internet and China's Internet, I believe they do not represent any country," said Cui.

Cui called for more international cooperation to combat threats that the Minister believes are equally geared at both nations.

"The international community ought to come up with some rules to prevent this misuse of advanced technology. Internet security is an issue for all countries, and it is a most pressing matter. Of course, every country has different abilities when it comes to this problem," Cui said.

"The United States is the most advanced country in the world when it comes to this technology, and we hope they can step up communication and cooperation on this with other countries. We also hope this advanced technology is not used for destructive purposes," Cui continued.

Cui's assertions run counter to an analysis published last week in China's leading military newspaper and re-posted on the website of China's Ministry of Defense.

"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 defence development and accelerate steps to make a strong Internet army. Although our country has developed into an Internet great power, our Internet security defences are still very weak. So we must accelerate development of Internet battle technology and armament," the report stated.

Cui's statements also are in direct opposition to accusations levied by former national security advisor Richard Clarke in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece last week.

"Senior U.S. officials know well that the government of China is systematically attacking the computer networks of the U.S. government and American corporations. Beijing is successfully stealing research and development, software source code, manufacturing know-how and government plans. In a global competition among knowledge-based economies, Chinese cyberoperations are eroding America's advantage," wrote Clarke.

"What would we do if we discovered that Chinese explosives had been laid throughout our national electrical system? The public would demand a government response. If, however, the explosive is a digital bomb that could do even more damage, our response is apparently muted—especially from our government," Clarke postulated.

In contrast, former colleague and one time Department of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff believes that such events do not not require the support of nation states, and that these operations may just as well have been conducted by small hacker collectives such as LulzSec and Anonymous.

“We live in a world of globalization and technology, so even small groups now have the ability to project themselves around the world, in terms of presence, communications and travel… and build bigger and more destructive tools and weapons, and unleash them," Chertoff said.

“We can have [criminal] networks that can cause serious threats if not existential damage without a nation-state involved. With the confluence of globalization and technology, these groups now have the ability to cause the kind of damage that used to involve national effort. We got a taste of this on 9/11," Chertoff explained.

Recent reports link Chinese hackers to a multitude of operations directed at government and private enterprise targets, including:

The largest and perhaps most damaging operation in recent years were the Aurora attacks which targeted an unknown number of large firms, including Adobe, Northrop Grumman, Dow Chemical, Morgan Stanley, and most famously Google.

Security experts have also been openly speculating that China may be behind the recent unauthorized network access events at several U.S. defense contractors, and that they may also be responsible for the RSA SecurID breach as well.

Some believe we are witnessing the dawn of a new 'cold war', but this time the race is on to obtain dominance in the virtual world of cyberspace.

"We are probably just now entering the era of the cyber arms race," said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer for F-Secure.

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