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Cyber Attacks: Following the Script

The Chinese government was quick to respond to this latest report of compromises of Pentagon computers from systems in China:

China [today] denied a report that its military had hacked into Pentagon computers, saying the allegations were "groundless" and that Beijing was opposed to cybercrime.

"Some people make groundless accusations against China" that its military attacked the Pentagon, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a regular news briefing.

"China has all along been opposed to and forbids criminal activities undermining computer networks, including hacking," she said. "China is ready to strengthen cooperation with other countries, including the U.S., in countering Internet crimes."

The timing was perfect and the recitation of the script this author crafted in a separate post was flawless:

People still chase the last-hop when that hasn’t mattered (if it ever did) for ages. Consequently, we futilely pursue “proof” when “intention” or “motivation” is more than sufficient (attribution, as commonly understood, is a pipe dream). National-strategic actions are facilitated/conducted by disinterested criminals (there is that black globalization at work) but we continue to let the FBI pursue “criminals” and the Pentagon to combat “enemies” and almost ner’ the two do meet.

The bottom line is that any nation can conduct attacks of this nature at will, with almost no fear of retribution. State-sponsored activities are indistinguishable from common hacker activity. Motivation is the key: cash-hungry identity thieves don’t care about DOD information, but an adversary in the midst of a massive military build up, aspirations of dominance in space, and an outrageously large and successful espionage campaign does.

The flip side of the coin is that the Chinese could very well be telling the truth in the sense that this particular series of attacks was not their doing. The so-called great firewall of China – like its physical counterpart – can be overcome in many ways, but that does nothing to temper the threat: someone, somewhere, is eating our digital lunch, and they seem to be able to do it will relative and regular ease.

1 Comment

Apart from the ongoing development of our own cyber warfighting capabilities by the 8th Air Force (which is constrained by the same rules of war that our other warfighting domains are bound by), what we'll probably see more and more of are un-official responses/attacks by cyber vigilantes like Internet Haganah.