China’s state-run Global Times on Sunday criticized the United States for reportedly launching a cyberattack on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and turned American criticism of Chinese technology on its head by claiming Washington is the party waging a long campaign of electronic espionage against Beijing.
The Chinese Communist Party constantly denies it has anything to do with the massive amount of cyber-espionage emanating from China – it is all supposedly the work of “rogue hackers” – and deflects criticism by taking every opportunity to bring up renegade National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, as the Global Times did once again, saying:
In 1999, two senior officers in the People’s Liberation Army predicted “unrestricted warfare,” noting there would be a number of ways to engage an enemy other than direct military confrontation, including cyberattacks, trade wars, new terrorism and ecological warfare. It seems that a US-launched “unrestricted warfare” may already be underway.
The US has no lack of a “criminal record” in terms of cyberattacks. Edward Snowden, the US National Security Agency whistleblower, confirmed that Stuxnet, a malware responsible for causing grievous damage to Iran’s nuclear program in 2010, was cooperatively developed by the US and Israel. In 2011, it was reported that the US considered using cyber weapons to attack Libya.
On June 15, the New York Times reported that the Pentagon has been stepping up its cyberattacks on the Russian power grid. Since at least 2012, the US “has put reconnaissance probes into the control systems of the Russian electric grid,” said US officials. Although President Donald Trump strongly denied this claim, it is highly likely that “unrestricted warfare,” especially cyber wars provoked by the US, are approaching.
The new twist in Sunday’s editorial was that not only did the Chinese paper insist technology from telecom giant Huawei is completely safe from tampering by Chinese intelligence agents, but the United States is the main perpetrator of state-sponsored hacking in the world, guilty of “wanton cyberattacks” against everyone from China to Iran. According to the Global Times:
Nonetheless, the US has never been ashamed of its record. It has repeatedly hyped in the international community that its cybersecurity is being “threatened,” and has targeted China and Chinese companies such as Huawei, alleging there are “hidden backdoors” in Huawei equipment, but has never produced any concrete evidence.
This is a groundless label that the US had pinned on China and Chinese enterprises. But who is truly deserving of such label? Anyone with reason will find the answer self-evident.
China’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team (CNCERT) released an annual report on June 10, suggesting that most of the cyberattacks targeting Chinese networks in 2018 were conducted by the US.
CNCERT found that in 2018, 3.34 million computers on the Chinese mainland were controlled by over 14,000 Trojan or botnet command and control servers in the US, and 3,325 IP addresses in the US planted Trojans in 3,607 websites on the Chinese mainland.
In reality, the cost of Chinese technology theft to American corporations has been estimated at over $57 billion a year. The true dimensions of the problem were obscured for the better part of two decades since many of the corporate victims were afraid to report hacking attacks from China to the authorities, fearful of provoking U.S. retaliatory measures that would hinder their access to the rapidly growing Chinese marketplace.
Chinese hacking squads have raided American corporations, universities, and government agencies, sometimes with the obvious goal of procuring vital technology, but other times with motives that were unclear beyond the general sense that China is constantly refining its hacking tools. The Chinese launched a major cyberattack within 24 hours of Communist Party chief Xi Jinping promising former U.S. President Barack Obama that China would back away from cyberwarfare.
Cyber-espionage from China tends to closely follow Beijing’s five-year economic plans, stealing needed technical data and damaging foreign companies that compete with Chinese interests. When Beijing’s political agenda is threatened, as with the protest movement in Hong Kong, hacker attacks are never far behind. China’s militarized hacking units are very well-known to Western cybersecurity experts.
The Internet would be a much safer place if China only used cyber-warfare to prevent rogue states from developing nuclear weapons or punish them for military aggression, but that is not the case.