China Engaging U.S. in Cyber Warfare: Report

Published February 1, 2009

The United States is under attack from China—in cyber space.

According to a recent report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Commission, China is aggressively taking part in cyber espionage against America.

“China’s current cyber operations capability is so advanced, it can engage in forms of cyber warfare so sophisticated, that the United States may be unable to counteract or even detect the efforts,” the USCC 2008 annual report notes.

Government, Contractors Targeted

The document identifies U.S. government and commercial computers, including those of the largest U.S. defense contractors, as the target of China’s cyber espionage program. The study also reported China is capable of accessing the U.S. military’s Non-Secure Internet Protocol Network, which could enable China to delay or disrupt the operations of U.S. armed forces without a physical confrontation.

Although such capabilities are worrisome, some tech experts say this sort of thing is par for the course.
“Espionage is older than this technology,” said Bruce Abramson, president of the San Francisco-based tech consultancy firm Informationism, Inc. “There is nothing you can do about it other than to keep your defense one generation ahead of the other country. As long as you try to keep secrets from other countries, they will try to find them out.”

Challenge for Obama Administration

Experts say the new Obama administration, already faced with multiple national crises, needs to put countering cyber warfare on the front burner.

“Given our digital economy, it is no surprise that many countries are investing heavily in sophisticated programs for cyber intelligence and cyber warfare,” said Daniel Castro, a senior analyst for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Washington, DC. “The next administration needs to ensure that information security is a top priority.

“However, the cyber security threats faced by the United States are not limited to government institutions,” Castro said. “In fact, many of the vulnerable systems at risk for cyber attacks are operated by government contractors or other private businesses. To effectively address this challenge, we need a comprehensive assessment of risk, and the government must work in partnership with the private sector to develop solutions.

“One important part of the answer will be for government to leverage its purchasing power to ensure companies are delivering secure products and services,” Castro said.

Aricka Flowers ([email protected]) writes from Chicago.

For more information …

USCC Annual Report 2008: