The primary complaint against China’s outift of military hackers has been dual pronged: the U.S. private sector is losing expensive proprietary information, and the public sector is having its sensitive weapons systems compromised.
China’s response has been, simply: yeah but the U.S. did it to us first, and worse.
It turns out, China might just be telling it like it is this time.
The deafening sound of internet aggregators shredding Edward Snowden’s life into digestible pieces drowned out probably one of the most epic posts of the week: Matthew M. Aid’s Foreign Policy piece titled “Inside the NSA’s Ultra-Secret China Hacking Group.”
In it, Aid describes how the U.S. has a long history of penetrating China’s systems — what they call “Computer Network Exploitation.” The U.S. government, as we should have assumed, knows the most intimate details about the Chinese communist party and its People’s Liberation Army.
From Aid’s piece:
A highly secretive unit of the National Security Agency (NSA) … called the Office of Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, has successfully penetrated Chinese computer and telecommunications systems for almost 15 years, generating some of the best and most reliable intelligence information about what is going on inside the People’s Republic of China.
TAO mirrors China’s methods by first hacking into computer networks, then protecting themselves from being identified, and finally copying ALL communications and files from within that network.
If that sounds familiar, its because the process nearly matches the description Mandiant — the company that caught Chinese hackers red-handed — gave to explain the method the PLA uses to steal American information.
Except America’s system pre-dates that of China.
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman, Geng Yansheng, recently said in a briefing:
“The team was set up to better safeguard the internet security of the armed forces. Cyber security was an international problem, affecting civil and military areas. China is still “relatively weak” in internet security protection, and vulnerable to cyber-terrorism.”
It’s not just China in the mix either — it’s Israel, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, the U.K. and others, British intelligence analyst Glenmore Trenear-Harvey told InfoSec.com.
“This is not just conventional military powers. Put bluntly, everyone’s at it. It is a game anyone can play. But do remember that we – the U.S. and UK – are doing this in reverse and we are very successful,” said Trenear-Harvey.
Not only has Obama ordered the military to draw up a list of potential cyber targets around the globe, but most of the military academies now offer majors in Cyber Warfare.
There’s also been revelations that the cyber war is getting a big boost from the civilian side. Apparently, more than a third of the Marine Corps’ cyber war will be fought by contractors.
Hackers may be full of old tricks, but it’s a new battlefield, and it looks like everyone is down to play the game.
“[Cyber Warfare] an incredibly potent weapon which will certainly be utilized,” said Trenear-Harvey.