In case you missed it, there’s been an ongoing, sustained effort by the Chinese government to hack foreign governments, companies, newspapers-- basically anything or anyone with a computer. As usual, the Chinese government is trying to play coy in the face of a mountain of evidence. It really doesn’t surprise me though; it’s just another example of the country’s “why figure it out for ourselves when we can just steal it” mentality.
Sharing is caring; in a land where the biggest companies in the most critical sectors are controlled by the government, there’s a lot that these companies could gain from a military-sponsored hacking program. No more need for forced technology-transfer JVs with dim-witted foreigners, these Chinese firms can just wait for the military to hack a foreign competitor and pass along the booty.
Today the group Mandiant released a report detailing the efforts of these military hackers, “PLA Unit 61398”. It’s a rather interesting read. Although the extent to which the chaps in Shanghai are going is disturbing, I’m actually not too worried about these groups. They seem to be a tad inept. You’re not a very good hacker if your work makes The New York Times. I mean, isn’t the name of the game supposed to be subtlety? Yes, they’ve stolen terabytes of data, but they seem to be rather sloppy about it.
And in the case of ripping off trade secrets and corporate strategies, stealing and copying will still only get one so far. It still takes critical thinking skills and the ability to grasp abstract problems to develop and improve upon the stolen ideas, which is something the Chinese are not able to do because of the country’s education system. Original thought is not encouraged.
I’m also sure we have groups that are hacking them back. If the CIA and Mossad were able to create the Stuxnet virus to try to impede Iran’s nuclear weapons program, then we most certainly also have a program or programs in place to go after the Chinese as well. The difference between us and the Chinese though is that we’re much better at covering our tracks.
So I say we let the Chinese have their time in the sun for now, let them think they have the upper hand. Pride comes before the fall. That’s not to say though that we don’t need to harden our network defenses, especially those for our electric and water grids. I for one do not want Communist infiltration to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.