As the Internet breaks down borders between nations and begins to bound the economy, we’re looking at brand new forms of political and economic pressure and the advent of cyber warfare. On Monday, The Guardian reported that the United States and Chinese militaries have been secretly engaged in practice cyberwar games in an attempt to thwart rising tensions and potential hostilities.
State department and Pentagon officials, along with their Chinese counterparts, were involved in two war games last year that were designed to help prevent a sudden military escalation between the sides if either felt they were being targeted. Another session is planned for May.
Though the exercises have given the US a chance to vent its frustration at what appears to be state-sponsored espionage and theft on an industrial scale, China has been belligerent.
These cyberwar practice games may not be doing their job very well if China is still being connected to attacks against various governments across the world. July and August 2011 saw South Korea suffer attacks from North Korea hijacking social networks, exfiltrating usernames and passwords, and with a lot of reasons to think that the hackers were warehoused in China itself. Then we had Chinese IP addresses involved in an attack against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in December 2011. China didn’t take these accusations laying down and swiped back—but then immediately came under fire from Japan over a hack against their parliament via China.
Since then we’ve heard accusasions of Chinese hacking of U.S. satellites, NASA, and even the possibility that they are connected to the RSA SecurID exposure that was determined to be done by a hacker team in an operation that “could only have been perpetrated by a nation state.”
China has been adamant in denying any involvement in cyber espionage.
Although the next operation is set for May, it’s not looking like it’s going to do much to relieve the rising tensions between outside governments and China—that includes the United States. Speaking to The Register, CSIS director Jim Lewis mentioned that political reasons might be behind the decision to placate concerns between these nations:
“China has come to the conclusion that the power relationship has changed, and it has changed in a way that favours them. The [People's Liberation Army] is very hostile. They see the US as a target. They feel they have justification for their actions. They think the US is in decline,” Lewis told the paper.
“The Chinese are very astute. They send knowledgeable people. We want to find ways to change their behaviour … [but] they can justify what they are doing. Their attitude is, they have experienced imperialism and they had a century of humiliation.”
Even as China continues to deny involvement in campaigns that obviously forward their political agenda, the U.S. is obviously working to engender a sense that they don’t want any sort of fight.
Not only do we see multiple nations looking to China when apparent nation-states strike at them (or Chinese IP addresses are involved in government-targeting hacks) but we’re seeing cyberwarfare becoming a prominent barbed-whip and olive branch in enigmatic politics.