China denounces report accusing it of cyberwar attacks on USA

Thomas Lifson
China has been accused of sponsoring a vast cyberwar apparatus attacking the United States, and has reacted harshly. The New York Times obtained an advance copy of a 60 page report by the cyber security consulting firm Mandiant that has traced the origin of several attacks:

An unusually detailed 60-page study, to be released Tuesday by Mandiant, an American computer security firm, tracks for the first time individual members of the most sophisticated of the Chinese hacking groups - known to many of its victims in the United States as "Comment Crew" or "Shanghai Group" - to the doorstep of the military unit's headquarters. The firm was not able to place the hackers inside the 12-story building, but makes a case there is no other plausible explanation for why so many attacks come out of one comparatively small area.

"Either they are coming from inside Unit 61398," said Kevin Mandia, the founder and chief executive of Mandiant, in an interview last week, "or the people who run the most-controlled, most-monitored Internet networks in the world are clueless about thousands of people generating attacks from this one neighborhood."

Other security firms that have tracked "Comment Crew" say they also believe the group is state-sponsored, and a recent classified National Intelligence Estimate, issued as a consensus document for all 16 of the United States intelligence agencies, makes a strong case that many of these hacking groups are either run by army officers or are contractors working for commands like Unit 61398, according to officials with knowledge of its classified content.

China is angrily denouncing the reports a "unprofessional" and correctly noting that purely domestic cyber attacks are common in the United States.

While innocence must be presumed in a court of law, I have little doubt that China is engaging in such hacking with government sponsorship. For one thing, intellectual property is not a well-established concept in the Confucian sphere of East Asia. If "stealing" information does deprive the owner of the information, then it is not really stealing, goes the traditional attitude. During its rise from the ashes of World War II, many Japanese companies helped themselves to as much information as they could, regardless of intellectual property rights. This attitude has changed dramatically, however, now that Japan is a net producer of technology, and as Japan has integrated itself more thoroughly into the heights of economic development.

China has a well-justified sense that it lost its historical preeminence to the West through illegitimate means (for example, the Opium War), and so any tactic that works to reverse this historical switch and re-establish preeminence is fully justified.

Given the dependence of the modern economy on the internet, I see trouble ahead. Maybe huge trouble.

Photo credit: Mandiant

China has been accused of sponsoring a vast cyberwar apparatus attacking the United States, and has reacted harshly. The New York Times obtained an advance copy of a 60 page report by the cyber security consulting firm Mandiant that has traced the origin of several attacks:

An unusually detailed 60-page study, to be released Tuesday by Mandiant, an American computer security firm, tracks for the first time individual members of the most sophisticated of the Chinese hacking groups - known to many of its victims in the United States as "Comment Crew" or "Shanghai Group" - to the doorstep of the military unit's headquarters. The firm was not able to place the hackers inside the 12-story building, but makes a case there is no other plausible explanation for why so many attacks come out of one comparatively small area.

"Either they are coming from inside Unit 61398," said Kevin Mandia, the founder and chief executive of Mandiant, in an interview last week, "or the people who run the most-controlled, most-monitored Internet networks in the world are clueless about thousands of people generating attacks from this one neighborhood."

Other security firms that have tracked "Comment Crew" say they also believe the group is state-sponsored, and a recent classified National Intelligence Estimate, issued as a consensus document for all 16 of the United States intelligence agencies, makes a strong case that many of these hacking groups are either run by army officers or are contractors working for commands like Unit 61398, according to officials with knowledge of its classified content.

China is angrily denouncing the reports a "unprofessional" and correctly noting that purely domestic cyber attacks are common in the United States.

While innocence must be presumed in a court of law, I have little doubt that China is engaging in such hacking with government sponsorship. For one thing, intellectual property is not a well-established concept in the Confucian sphere of East Asia. If "stealing" information does deprive the owner of the information, then it is not really stealing, goes the traditional attitude. During its rise from the ashes of World War II, many Japanese companies helped themselves to as much information as they could, regardless of intellectual property rights. This attitude has changed dramatically, however, now that Japan is a net producer of technology, and as Japan has integrated itself more thoroughly into the heights of economic development.

China has a well-justified sense that it lost its historical preeminence to the West through illegitimate means (for example, the Opium War), and so any tactic that works to reverse this historical switch and re-establish preeminence is fully justified.

Given the dependence of the modern economy on the internet, I see trouble ahead. Maybe huge trouble.

Photo credit: Mandiant