Email to China: Hack This!

A crowded Internet cafe in China

A war of words has erupted between the USA and China. This time the subject is Internet security and claims of hacking or cyberspying. As a columnist on issues of international consequence relating to China, by writing on this subject I feel like the deer in the Larson cartoon with a target on his chest. “Bummer of a birthmark, Hal” says another deer. Can you write about China hacking without getting hacked yourself? Let’s see.

Back to the war of words.

There’s no bigger word than the letter A, especially when connected to the word bomb. General Fang Fenghui, chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army in China said on Monday that attacking the Internet was as serious as launching a nuclear bomb.

“None of these activities is tolerated here in China,” said General Fang. If Internet security can’t be guaranteed, “the damaging consequences may be as serious as a nuclear bomb.” (Source: The Wall Street Journal)

In the same press conference the PLA chief suggested that attacks can even come from within the same country. His suggestion is that Americans are hacking American sites. And while they are no doubt doing this, there may also be validity to the claims that many cyber attacks originate in China. The evidence is so compelling The Economist prepared this special edition video on the subject:

Now the USA is considering a raft of measures to penalise China for Internet hacking. These range from trade sanction to diplomatic pressures. (They might even take away their iPads until after dinner.) There are also moves within the State Department to cooperate with China to stop other countries from going on the cyber-offensive. Other attacks int he past have been traced to Iran and North Korea. (Learn more at The Wall Street Journal.)

Regardless of outcomes the biggest change is that Internet security has entered the pantheon of modern warfare. Being able to protect information and the free flow of capital is vital to every nation. From electricity grids to water treatment plans to hospitals, everything is online now. Even you – and me. Note to China – Don’t try this at home:

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