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Wednesday, 21 May 2014 14:28

US playing a dangerous game of international cyber tit for tat Featured

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It would seem that the US is intent on playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship with the most powerful adversaries it can muster on the world stage. The indictment of five Chinese military officers on charges of industrial cyber-espionage boggles the mind in its pot calling the kettle names implications. This time, however, the US may have gone beyond the tipping point.

Making an enemy of Russia over Ukraine is one thing, although that’s bad enough. Openly accusing Chinese officialdom of cyber impropriety, a nation which places a great store in face, raises the bar to another level. What’s more, it pushes two powerful neighbours even closer together toward an anti-US alliance.

The fact of the matter is that since the Edward Snowden revelations of NSA cyber snooping, the Bradley Manning Wikileaks fiasco, plus the widely perceived US involvement in the Stuxnet virus incident, the US is not in a position to claim the moral high ground in cyber espionage matters.

In this latest incident, China is not backward in coming forward to publicly lambast the US for what it describes as insolence and hypocrisy.

According to China’s official news agency, Xinhua, with the headline “Big Brother USA’s spy charges are absurd”, the story goes on to assert that the US is itself the real cyber crook.

In addition to the revelations of NSA spying detailed by Edward Snowden, the Xinhua article goes on to describe incidents in which the US specifically engaged in cyber attacks against Chinese institutions.

“The U.S. routinely attacks, infiltrates and taps Chinese networks belonging to governments, institutions, enterprises, universities and major telecom backbone networks,” the article asserts.

“Latest data from the National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team Coordination Center of China showed that 135 host computers in the U.S. carried 563 phishing pages targeting Chinese websites that led to 14,000 phishing operations from March 19 to May 18.”

“The center found 2,016 IP addresses in the U.S. had implanted backdoors in 1,754 Chinese websites, involving 57,000 backdoor attacks in the same period.”

Anyone who has visited China and used the Internet there will know that the country can in no way be described as a beacon of cyber-freedom. Search queries are almost certainly monitored and the results are very obviously filtered.

The industrial cyber-espionage charges against these Chinese military officers may also well be true. However, given that the US and the corporations that run the country are at least equally culpable in such activities, the whole matter could easily have been handled quietly and diplomatically.

This however was not the case and that’s the real worry.

The US of late seems intent on provoking incidents on an increasingly global scale. First there was Syria, with the questionable chemical attacks accusations against the Assad regime.Then there was Ukraine, with the Maidan coup, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Now there is a China incident which comes on the eve of what could be a massive Sino-Russian energy agreement.

It would be easy to believe that the people in the halls of power within the US have no idea what they’re doing. However, in all probability that is not the case. They know exactly what they are doing and that’s why we should all be a little bit frightened.

As for cyber espionage, privacy et al. Well, as my very capable colleague Graeme Philipson aptly put it in a previous article: “You have no privacy - get over it.” Unfortunately, like it or not, he was 100% on the mark.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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