Monday, August 8, 2011

China Global Cyberattack?

by Mary Claire Kendall

William "Wild Bill" Donavan
on the cover of Life Magazine

Washington, DC, August 7, 2011The Department of Defense (DOD) is now treating cyberspace as an "operational domain."

As Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn explained on "Charlie Rose" last October, it's a whole new command—CYBERCON—focused on preparing for "emerging cyber threats." The new "Cyber Strategy," as Deputy Defense Secretary Lynn outlined, holds that:
...our posture in cyberspace must mirror the posture we assume to provide security for our nation overall. Namely, our first goal is to prevent war. We do this in part by preparing for it...
This presupposes we have an enemy threatening us with cyber warfare.

Is China a purveyor of such threats?

It's hard to know. But, the recent McAfee report released in conjunction with the Black Hat and Defcon conferences in Las Vegas at which security experts and hackers meet to discuss the growing threat of cyber intrusions, should give pause to those tasked with defending our nation against such attacks.

The 14-page report all but accuses China of launching a five-year hacking operation aimed at a diverse array of over 70 organizations—including the US government, particularly its national security apparatus; UN Secretariat in Geneva; and US Olympic Committee—using malicious software from a single computer server to troll for sensitive data, as reported in The Daily Telegraph.

If true—a big if—China is not so much a "strategic competitor," in former President George W. Bush's words, as an "unscrupulous competitor," as Dmitri Alperovitch, McAfee vice president for threat research, described the perpetrator of this massive hacking scheme—robbing us of "economic advantage and national secrets."

"This," he added, "is the biggest transfer of wealth in terms of intellectual property in history."

Others say, not so fast. It's easy to mask cyber crimes in someone else's guise. However, the fact that USOC was hacked before the 2008 Olympic Games China hosted, heightens suspicion.

In the days when Reagan officials were referring to the Soviet Union as "the evil empire," China was considered "the threat," along the lines discussed in The China Threat by national security journalist Bill Gertz.

The worry then was that China's espionage was siphoning off nuclear secrets.

Upping the ante, Rear Admiral David L. Philman recently called China "a smart and learning enemy" in a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. However we describe it—and whoever the source—the end game is to try and deal America a fatal blow.

We may be closer than we realize.

As Gertz reported vis-à-vis Kevin Freeman's 2009 unclassified report, Economic Warfare: Risks and Responses: "Chinese military officials publicly have suggested using economic warfare against the U.S.," which principally involves cyber attacks to take advantage of our economic vulnerabilities."  

"The new battle space," says Freeman, "is the economy. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars on weapons systems each year. But a relatively small amount of money focused against our financial markets through leveraged derivatives or cyber efforts can result in trillions of dollars in losses. And, the perpetrators can remain undiscovered."

Freeman believes a coordinated plan of attack is currently underway.

As this author wrote on April 29, in "America's Fiscal High Noon":
Right now, it's 1941 all over again… We're just months away from another Pearl Harbor — potentially — and all we hear from President Barack Obama and company, as Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS) puts it, is "happy talk." ...According to... Freeman, what's referred to as "Bear Raid II" — phase III of an economic terrorist attack against the United States — is poised to fatally hit the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. dollar, causing the collapse of America's economy.
With DOD on the case, working synergistically with General David H. Petraeus, new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), replacing Leon Panetta, new DOD Secretary—we have a fighting chance of avoiding such a calamity.

But, it will take a well-coordinated effort involving many more entities, perhaps akin to that William "Wild Bill" Donovan, Major General, US Army (Ret.) undertook at FDR's request, prior to Pearl Harbor, as Coordinator of Information, starting in July 1941—COI, morphing into the Office of Strategic Services, which later became the CIA—to mount the kind of effort needed to head cyber attacks off at the pass, and at their source—whatever that might be.

Originally published in AND Magazine on August 6, 2011.

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