Saturday, April 10, 2010

Recent Cyber Attacks Provide a Surprising Insight

It has been recently revealed that a group of Chinese hackers were successful in their attempt at a massive infiltration of Indian computer systems. One of the most interesting things gleamed from the news is how joint Canadian and American teams were able to "hack the hackers" and expose the intrusions:

"By gaining access to the control servers used by the second cyber gang, the researchers observed the theft of a wide range of material, including classified documents from the Indian government and reports taken from Indian military analysts and corporations, as well as documents from agencies of the United Nations and other governments......"We snuck around behind the backs of the attackers and picked their pockets,” said Ronald J. Deibert, a political scientist who is director of the Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity research group at the Munk School. “I’ve not seen anything remotely close to the depth and the sensitivity of the documents that we’ve recovered."

This points to a hypothesis I've had on the subject for some time. Is it really true that the western nations are so woefully behind Chinese cyber-warfare capabilities? Or, could another factor be fostering the perception that when it comes to all things cyber-centric, the CHICOMS rule the roost?

My theory is that the CHICOMS are not able to operate with relative impunity in this field. Rather, the nature of their secretive society gives the impression that it is all give and no take between them and western nations. In free and open societies like America we all know when a massive DDoS attack puts the Secretary of State offline, or the president's Facebook page gets hacked. Judging from the average coverage in the global press this certainly seems to be a one-sided battle.
I personally think that this is far from the case, as the above report implies. It is much more likely that the CHICOMS are as vulnerable, (if not more so) than the west is in these matters.
While attacks against the United States, such as "Titan Rain" and the infamous "Code Red" are the stuff of cyber legend, one has to wonder how many "Code Red"'s the CHICOMS themselves have been the victim of.


  1. I think you are right Philo. The US is currently one of the most vulnerable nations to a cyber attack, because we are one of the most connected countries at the moment. Cell phones, iPhones, medical equipment and even appliances are internet capable. Add to that the explosion of social sites.

    But China is not immune itself. According to Wikipedia, China has 384 Million internet users, the USA has 234 Million. Now here is the interesting part, the USA has almost 80% of our population hooked up to the internet, while China only has 30% connected. India has only 80 Million users, but they are just getting started with 7% of their population connected. China and India both have a long way to go.

    The US has shown that they can back track Chinese attacks relatively easily and as more systems and users connect, China will become much more vulnerable.

  2. With the new cyber chief taking a proactive stance like he has, I think our ability to intercept and react has greatly increased.
    Here's to winning the cyber-war, one byte at a time....