Chinese cyberwarriors on the rise?06/09/2007 Written by Boris Mutina
Last days brought to whole world really interesting news. After Mrs. Merkel visited China and spoke about hacker attacks against German ministries, also Financial Times revealed, that Pentagon was target of such attacks from China. If this is not enough, also Guardian recently reported about such attacks on governmental networks in UK. Titan Rain — as US called the raising Chinese hacking activities, seems to be stronger than we could imaginne.
General assumptions from specialists are, that behind these attacks is PLA — People’s Liberation Army — or if you want: Chinese army. This assumption is supported by the several facts, like target selection, attack levels (even IT security world would for sure invite more details on how the attacks were performed). It is also another known fact that China trained hackers already years ago. Then why this all is surprising some of us?
Before answering this question, let’s summarize some points.
On defacements, there is more or less clear, who’s the attacker — he leaves his signature. If someone intrudes into your network unobserved, you can maybe check your logs to see the origin of the attack from IP address, but can you say for sure, this is the real origin of the attacker? Investigation on originating system can show, that also originating system was compromised…But your official investigation can be destroyed, you reside for example in US and the originating system is from… China…
On the other hand, to show the real identity can be a part of strategy. Such demonstration of technologic advantage and attack methods can be only the innocent wargame compared to real digital conflict. Remember the cold war? There were many demonstrations of power and technologic advance on both sides. Anyway times has moved on and also technology, only the message that has to be provided, remains: “you should be scarred, because we are strong and we are prepared”.
Small army of skilled cyberwarriors could change the face of war on the globe and China is possibly aware of that. You don’t need to move to your target’s country to cause damages, you just need to have Internet connection. Dr. Sandra Bell from Royal United Services Institute aready stated that for Chinese there is no difference between asymmetric warfare and conventional warfare. Well it is no wonder, sometimes small group of attackers can cause much bigger damages than big expensive army.
China is big country, its military and economic power is undisputted. Apropos, economic interests could be also one one of more explanations used to build the real reason of these incidents.
Except the Pentagon attack, attacks on Germany and UK might indicate, that there is big struggle to get sensitive informations about approach to China and its import from Europe and EU. Novadays you can find lot of stores with cheap ware from China starting from underware through shoes, toys (sometimes dangerous) up to electronics. Since Europe already found out that cheap import cuts workplaces in EU member countries, their pressure on decreasing import from China to Europe will rise. This could be also reason for found Chinese (?) spyware on German Ministry of Economy.
Some of you would say: “and what if the Chinese are saying the truth, what if some other country or group of country-independet attackers is responsible for that and they misused Chinese systems?” Well, this is also opinion, but old Slavonic saying says, that leaves on trees will not move without a blow of wind. Who didn’t get the point: China is really a giant, not only economic, in number of population, but also in technology. Digital attacks and other kind of such activities are nothing new.
Now let’s place the answer to the question from beginning: why this all is surprising us? Because many of people around the world still did not get, that IT technologies and Internet are not only to their amusement, email and newspaper reading. IT technologies and Internet are means of crime, propaganda, espionage and also war. And we depend on it.