OPINION | No Blood Shed but the War is Dangerous: US and China in Cyber Conflict by Ipshita Bhattacharya
In the world of cyber technology two leading powers are at ongoing conflict of challenging each other’s capabilities in the cyber warfare. USA and China have been at war through cyber sabotage for some years. The recent disclosure by the Obama administration regarding the cyber theft by China since last year on the confidential records of federal employees can be considered as a massive transgress in the cyber world. According to official sources Chinese espionages penetrated deep in to the federal network system to plunder the official information of around 4 million current and ex workmen of US administration. USA is in a lopsided situation with a loss of personal data of 22.1 million people in the breach of the US Governments office which includes social security numbers and other confidential informations. Looking into the Chinese track record this is not the first time cyber thefts are being highlighted and caught. China’s hacking and infringement, pirating and counterfeiting goods records specifically the trade secrets from American companies is well known for years. China’s hacking techniques which target US companies nevertheless always created tensions between both the countries, although Beijing have always denied the allegations. Complication may likely to arrive for US to maintain the diplomatic relations with China on one hand and controlling cyber theft created and designed by China on the other. However, USA is struggling to decide how to deal with this situation without escalating the cyber conflict with China. Moreover, the issue is how well the conflicts and diplomacy will blend together if there is no substantial recourse on China’s part, and how far will USA go for deterrence.
The work of these threat actors is to worm in to the system get access and stay entrenched until they dig out and steal the sensitive informations and data. The threat detection firm CrowdStrike USA have named some of the hacking groups like Pink Panther, Kung Fu Kittens, and Deep Panda linked from China involved in cyber thefts. In this current cyber infiltration case Deep Panda or Shell Crew is being suspected accused of this massive attack. Deep Panda a hacking group with operating links from China, This group initially targeted data collection on USA’s Southeast Asian policies, recently shifted its focus on Iraq and its political affairs. Previously Deep Panda was also involved in hacking defence, energy and chemical industries of USA. Although China is in a complete denial from any kind of involvement but the traces of this operation gives lead to similar kind of earlier attacks. Moreover, advance Windows Power Shell (task automation and configuration management framework which works on command line shell) are being used to intrude into the high profile national think tanks to collect future policy predictions, defence and security related data without leaving any traces. The reason behind targeting these think tanks is probably because of two reasons firstly, they recruit former government employees and secondly these think tanks hire best of the brains for policy formulations and research. A noteworthy question arises why China wants to steal the informations. There could be many grounds, economic, defence and security, and most importantly perhaps China wants to keep a track on USA’s strategic postures to various issues around the World. Among which one of its stellar operation is Middle East. Since China is the largest foreign investor in oil infrastructure in Iraq and concerned about its investments because of the insurgent powers flourishing there. Therefore China is keeping a hawk eye on the American posture over strategies it implements in Iraq. China is also garnering informations through proper diplomatic channels but perhaps there is a hunger in Beijing’s belly or probably there is an urge to get inside the skin of Washington to get the informations which are deep inside and confidential. Last year in the month of May Obama administration indicted five PLA officials of theft charges from Westinghouse Electric Company, US Steel, Alcoa inc., Allegheny Technologies and Solar World companies, although Beijing denied all the charges and also called of the US-China cyber working group on cyber security. This is definitely a serious concern as the officials were the known State actors barging in to the commercial targets of a foreign land. There is off course a silent cyber arms race going on between these two countries with challenging cyber technologies and with sophisticated cyber cum economic espionages and malwares that needs to be immediately stopped, no matter this war is not shedding a single drop of blood but this is dangerous and may lead to perilous situation in near future.
Currently USA is all set to deter China through her all sorts of cyber doctrine arsenals by publishing policy papers for cyber -war fare. It contains terms and conditions that states the rules under which US can hack into any country in case of a cyber war fare.
The US-China Cyber working group on internet security could have given some solace in the otherwise widening relations between US and China because of number of thorny issues like North Korea, South China Sea, US commitment to Taiwan, and China’s failure to safeguard USA Intellectual property. China in its urge and appetite to fulfil her economic agendas is moving beyond the lines by creating sharp irritants of cyber thefts. Cyber security could have been an area where mutual trust and faith can be developed and practised but currently both the countries are making accusations for massive cyber invasions. A noteworthy point is that the cyber theft is now moving from commercial cyberespionage to national security, defence, research and think tanks activities which may lead it more deadly dimensions. Nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) an ultimate component of cyber threat and information warfare operations developed by many Nations which can cripple the whole power grid outage of the victim country that may even take years to get back the power supply. This would have the potential to stop the working of entire system of the country depending upon the magnitude. Therefore the most vulnerable states would be the countries which are completely depended upon the electronic system. Therefore, within the limitations for cyber warfare strategic policies and cyber army and defence mechanism should be developed to safeguard the national defence infrastructure against such kind of hostile activities.
Originally published at www.indrastra.com.