A massive program of intrusion
Most developed countries are engaged in internet attacks – electronic spying on other countries – but also in preparing for cyber warfare – both offensively and defensively. In the early 1990’s, as part of its plan to become a military, industrial and financial superpower and emerge from what was still in many respects (even under Chairman Mao) a medieval society, China instigated a series of programs, the results of which are becoming obvious today.
In the Chinese global intelligence infrastructure operations, a major component of the military and economic/political intelligence gathering is the so-called ‘deep water fishes’. The term goes back to 1983, and relates to the 10,000 or so agents that China has in place in 170 cities around the world. However, its internet intelligence gathering and cyberwar preparations are even more insidious and pervasive.
Under the direction of President Jiang Zemin, an army of so-called cyber warriors was set up by General Dai Qingmin to engage in info war. The cyber warriors design spam, malware and viruses to penetrate and paralyse their enemy in a war situation, they control the internet in China (and ultimately forced Google to pull out), and run the so-called ‘Golden Shield’ program which monitors e-mails, chat and mobile phone SMS.
Recently, there have been massive and well-coordinated cyber attacks on commercial websites. Many commentators believe that China is behind some of these attacks, though those in the Western intelligence services who know the truth are keeping quiet. Undoubtedly, there are some in commercial computer security companies who also know the truth, but they will not ‘go public’ with their knowledge – they may of course wish to keep commercially secret their analytical capabilities (or serve as consultants to governments).
Certainly, any country which is preparing for warfare of any kind has to test its weapons, and the Chinese are not the only culprits here. Cyber warfare is underway right now, from simple intelligence gathering by hacking military, political and commercial databases, right through to offensive use for destructive purposes, including by Western governments.
One such example is the use of malevolent software – ‘malware’. Insidious, dangerous and highly effective, and illustrated very clearly by the Stuxnet worm thought by some to have been developed jointly by Israel and the USA. The worm circulated freely around the internet and apparently had several authors on several continents – the trail was well disguised and hard to follow, but clearly bogus. Eventually, in 2010, Stuxnet found its way into the Siemens control programs for the gas centrifuges used in the Iranian uranium enrichment program. Many centrifuges spun uncontrolled and about twenty percent were wrecked. This reputedly delayed the Iranian quest for a nuclear bomb by several years.
Wherever there was conflict in the 20th century, there was info war (Churchill said that ‘truth is the first casualty of war’), from false news broadcasts to propaganda leaflets dropped from planes. Now in the 21st century, wherever there is conflict there is cyber war, and arguably, the Chinese army of cyber warriors is the largest and most active such army in the world.
© 2011 James Marinero
August 7, 2011