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US, China battle already underway in cyberspace

Last updated on: November 18, 2010 09:40 IST

US, China battle already underway in cyberspace

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Lalit K Jha in Washington

A global conflict between the United States and China is already underway in the virtual world of cyberspace, a noted American think-tank has said.

"Ability to redirect vast amounts of data constitutes a threat, not only to national security but also to private companies and individuals as their information, too, has now been put at risk," said Dean Cheng, research fellow in Chinese Political and Security Affairs in Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.

"That so many of these attacks appear to originate in China only raises the question of just how much cooperation one can expect from Beijing in maintaining the security of the global commons, including cyberspace," Cheng said in his latest article.

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"Perhaps the most notable is the report that China diverted 15 percent of global Internet traffic to Chinese servers at one point," he said, adding this incident, which occurred on April 8 this year, involved a Chinese Internet Service Provider which redirected traffic from 37,000 networks around the world to China.

Intriguingly, this year's report from Congress' US- China Economic and Security Review Commission notes that rerouted traffic included information from the US Senate, the Department of Defense and NASA.

"As with most cyber-related activities, it would be difficult to make a firm attribution of responsible parties for such an action.

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After all, as the famous New Yorker cartoon once observed, 'On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog or a 'patriotic hacker' or someone working for the Chinese government," Cheng said.

However, when taken in conjunction with other recent Chinese cyber activities, a disturbing pattern emerges. In 2003, for example, at the 10th National People's Congress, People's Liberation Army announced creation of 'information warfare units.'

"In 2004, the PLA in its defense white paper noted that its priority would be fighting and winning Local Wars Under Informationalised Conditions and that information was the keystone to future wars," he said.

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More recently, he said, in 2009, Canadian researchers identified 'Ghostnet', a cyber espionage effort that had infected computers in over a hundred countries.

Many of the Internet Protocol addresses associated with Ghostnet are Chinese in origin.

"Then, in March this year, Google accused Chinese of attempting to hack into the company's secure email servers, and chose to conclude its business operations in the PRC as a result.

"And, about the same time as the 18 minute episode, Canadian researchers again identified computer attacks originating from China aimed at India and the Dalai Lama, this time," Cheng said.



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