Black Friday

China At It Again – Continues Cyber Spying

Stan Ward

Stan Ward

October 26, 2015

Presently, China’s President Xi Jinping is criss-crossing the globe to create business deals that may jolt China out of its malaise. One standard feature of China’s economic arsenal has been attempting to gain a competitive advantage through thievery. This tactic has taken many forms but by far the most persistent, pervasive and effective has been cyber spying (read: cyber stealing) from economies around the world.

The US, being the largest, most advanced and diversified economy is, therefore, the most logical target for cyber espionage. It was thought that the recent visit to the US by Xi would perhaps rein in China’s hacking practices, but this apparently is not the case. Dmitri Alperovitch, chief security officer of the security firm, Crowdstrike has this week said that,

The very fact that that these attempts occurred highlights the need to remain vigilant despite the newly minted Cyber Agreement.

He accompanied his remarks by revealing that the company has detected several incidents of stealing of intellectual property by the Chinese since Xi Jinping visit. With Xi currently in the UK bearing ’’gifts’’ worth maybe as much as $10 billion to the British economy, it may be worth a bit of skepticism by David Cameron’s government as to what kind of strings are attached. That is, to wonder to what extent he is exposing UK industry to similar hacks by the Chinese once they have established a toehold. After all, Xi’s largesse might be classic misdirection and with a hidden cost.

In the US instance, Alperovitch said the attacks began on ’’the very next day” after Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping reached an agreement on a cyber pact supposedly designed to stop  exactly such hacks. Crowdstrike is, as a company with close ties to the FBI, in an enviable position to comment on the hacks. It said the Chinese had targeted technology and pharmaceutical companies in these latest incidents, though it didn’t name the specific companies targeted.

One would think that the ire of the White House would be aroused by these apparent flagrant infractions, but all the administration could muster is an acknowledgment that it has been made aware of the transgressions, and that it will monitor China’s behavior going forward.

Some secretly hope that the pace of such hacks would decline in light of an agreement, but this doesn’t seem to be the case (according to Alperovitch.) This raises the question as to whether the hacks are being carried out under state auspices, or if this is some rogue operation operating at arms length from Beijing – moonlighting militia, perhaps? The US hopes it is the former, as it might be able to then have some influence on future actions. But at first glance, with the attacks continuing, it looks like, as is often the case with this White House, that the whole episode is just one more of many publicity stunts-photo ops by an administration that at times appear overwhelmed and toothless in the face of world leaders.

Despite China’s recent transgressions, Alperovitch remains positive,

Call me an optimist, but I continue to have hope that meaningful progress can be made to turn the corner and establish norms of behavior for nation-states in cyberspace.

One thing seems certain in this scenario. The Chinese would do well to extract what they can at the bargaining table with this president, because it is unlikely the next occupant of the White House will be as clueless and feckless as Obama. God help the Chinese if there is a Republican in the Oval Office!

Editor’s note: Stan’s view are his alone, and are not representative of those held by the rest of the BestVPN staff.

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