The two publications announced last week that the attacks were coming from China. At the beginning of this week articles appeared in the US media accusing China of stealing personal data of US Department of Energy employees.
In denying the accusations of unleashing a cyber war, The People’s Daily pointed out that the hacker attacks were an international issue and it was very difficult to establish the true source of threat.
Over the last few years the Americans have accused Chinese hackers of all sorts of things. In 2009, mass media announced a sensational find, as spy software was discovered in the computers that controlled the work of the electric grid. According to the experts, the tracks led to China. Despite the fact that the virus programs detected did no damage to the US energy system, according to mass media, the software, if activated, could cause power failure throughout the US territory.
Chinese hackers have been also accused of stealing a large volume of data about the F-35 fighter aircraft with stealth capabilities, as well as breaking into the mailboxes of the Chinese dissidents. Last year the US intelligence service compiled a first-of-its-kind survey of international cyber threats, in which China got the most attention. The document stated that the Chinese authorities were involved in stealing information which contained state or commercial secrets. In addition, according to US military experts, China is actively developing the technology for a computer attack on key infrastructure objects in the territory of the USA.
Now the accusations are voiced about the attacks on the US mass media. The publications that found themselves under attack were those that have repeatedly published critical materials about the situation in China.
In the new round of accusations, Beijing sees Washington's desire to present China as the main “Cyber villain”, while it was the Americans who started developing and using Internet war technology first. The situation in cyber space is becoming one of the hottest subjects in US-China relations, Ivan Konovalov, head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, believes.
“The USA takes the cyber threat seriously. Recently, the USA adopted a special program which declared cyber space to be a battlefield. It has to be protected in the same way as an ordinary battlefield – terrestrial or aerial. The Pentagon and the intelligence agencies will pay special attention to that. Special units are set up for a real cyber war,” Konovalov points out.
Not only do the consistency of the cyber attacks, allegedly executed by Chinese hackers on US servers, make the situation especially acute, but also the intensity level of conflict situations. They are constantly escalating and affect other disputes between the two countries – in the area of trade, Taiwan relations and the issues related to the US policy of “returning to Asia”.
Perhaps so far the cyber incidents have appeared quite innocent, but it is quite possible that a build-up of disputes and mistrust in this area could lead to an explosion which could prove to be a serious threat to the global security. The US’ cyber policy published last May also implies a military response in the event that the interference with computer networks leads to a loss of lives among US citizens. The question is whom would such a military strike be addressed to, taking into account that IP-addresses used to find these criminal can easily be changed?