Feeds

US Department of Defense fingers China as top cyber threat

Chinese gov't, military to blame for past attacks

Website security in corporate America

A new report to Congress by the US Department of Defense (DoD) includes some of the strongest language yet implicating the People's Republic of China in recent global cyber-attacks.

"In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions," the report states, "some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military."

The main purpose of these government-sponsored attacks was to extract information, the report claims, presumably to benefit China's defense or high-tech industries – although determining which is which can be tricky.

"Differentiating between civil and military end-use is very challenging in China due to opaque corporate structures, hidden asset ownership, and the connections of commercial personnel with the central government," the report explains.

As a result, the DoD investigators claim, China's armed forces have directly benefited from the expanding Chinese civilian economy, in which Chinese companies with access to foreign technology in areas such as aerospace, night-vision devices, microwave integrated circuits, and information technologies have transferred their knowledge to the military.

The DoD's line is in keeping with earlier reports from other government agencies and advisors. For example, in November a Congressional committee found that Chinese state-sponsored actors regularly attempted to exploit sensitive US government and private-sector systems, while in February the White House issued a report claiming that industrial espionage by Chinese actors was at an all-time high.

Private companies, too, have pointed the finger at China. Just last month, Verizon found that where cyber-attacks could be traced back to state-affiliated hackers, China was responsible in 96 per cent of cases.

Concerns over the PRC's involvement in such attacks have already led to a ban on purchases of Chinese-made IT equipment by federal government agencies, a move that Chinese networking equipment maker Huawei has slammed as "protectionism."

For its part, the Chinese government has consistently denied any involvement in cyber-attacks against the US and its allies, accusing US government officials of hanging onto a "Cold War mentality" and arguing that China "resolutely opposes internet attacks and has established relevant laws."

But according to the DoD report, China's vision for how to prevent cyber-attacks largely revolves around increased state control of internet traffic, where "governments exercise sovereign authority over the flow of information and control of content in cyberspace" – a philosophy shared by Russia, but which the US strongly opposes.

What's more, the report says, doctrinal writings of the People's Liberation Army identify "information warfare" as one of the most important aspects of modern combat, with computer network attacks being one key technique in that area.

The report further observes that while China's officially reported military budget increased to $114bn in 2013, the country's actual military-related spending in all areas is likely somewhere between $135bn and $215bn.

By comparison, the US's defense budget for fiscal year 2013 is expected to fall at around $590bn – the part we know about, at least. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Blood-crazed Microsoft axes Trustworthy Computing Group
Security be not a dirty word, me Satya. But crevice, bigod...
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.