Chinese hackers

Chinese hackers

Are computer geeks in Shanghai stealing American businesses blind?

It's not often that a criminal indictment becomes an instrument of foreign policy, but that was the case earlier this week when the U.S. government accused five members of the Chinese military of engaging in economic cyber-espionage.

The indictment is commonly perceived as a means of sending a message to the Chinese government, expressing U.S. disapproval of that country's shady efforts to compete in the world marketplace. At the same time, it is not considered a serious effort to put the five officers — identified as members of Unit 61398 on the Third Department of Chinese People's Liberation Army — on trial.

It's a virtual certainty that China will react with outrage, whether feigned or not, to the criminal indictment. The Chinese deeply resent foreign criticism and do not limit themselves with ethical niceties in their efforts to compete on the world stage. In that context, it's hard to imagine a symbolic indictment serving as a deterrent to the Chinese way of doing business.

At the same time, however, the indictment does provide specifics for those who wonder what all the talk about Chinese cyber-espionage is all about, as well as for Chinese officials who've denied any improprieties and insisted the U.S. provide evidence of wrongdoing.

The indictment alleges that the Chinese government oversees an espionage effort to hack into the computers of American companies that do business in nuclear energy, steel manufacturing and solar energy. Among the companies and entities targeted were U.S. Steel, Westinghouse, Alcoa, Allegheny Technologies and the United Steel Workers Union.

Their goal is to steal trade secrets, if they can get them, or anything else that might enhance China's ability to compete.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder characterized the indictment as a "wake-up call to the seriousness of the ongoing cyber threat."

"This administration will not tolerate actions by any nation that seeks to illegally sabotage American companies and undermine the integrity of fair competition in the free market," he said.

A wake-up call it may be, but to whom? The Chinese may be embarrassed by the indictment, but there's no reasonable expectation they will cease their efforts. Short of some kind of unthinkable international confrontation, the only real solution to cyber-espionage is enhanced cyber-security, a high-tech game of cat and mouse where move begets countermove. Further, it's not just the Chinese trying to get into U.S. computers. There's a whole host of countries that pursue this kind of gamesmanship, just as the U.S. pursues its national security interests by the same means.

It's not a conventional war by any means. But there are ongoing hostilities, and no cease-fire is in the offing.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion

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Sid Saltfork wrote on May 21, 2014 at 10:05 am

Prohibit all China nationals from attending U.S. uniiversities.  Give more space to U.S. nationals in the universities.  

Oh....wait.....they pay out-of-state tuition.  How would the state supported universities make money as a public institution of higher learning?


By the way; did the two Chinese students who killed the family of three on Rt.49 on Easter Day skip back to China yet since the semester is over? 

Alexander wrote on May 22, 2014 at 6:05 am

Stay classy Sid.

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 22, 2014 at 7:05 pm

What I expected from a university pawn.  The country is being ripped off by foriegn technology spying; but the university is willing to accept more international students without any concern as long as it brings in more tuition money.  Stay classy Alex; and defend your self interests.