Thursday, November 12, 2009

is china an aggressive "foe" in cyberspace?

Washington Post | One day in late summer 2008, FBI and Secret Service agents flew to Chicago to inform Barack Obama's campaign team that its computer system had been hacked. "You've got a problem. Somebody's trying to get inside your systems," an FBI agent told the team, according to a source familiar with the incident.

The McCain campaign was hit with a similar attack.

The trail in both cases led to computers in China, said several sources inside and outside government with knowledge of the incidents. In the McCain case, Chinese officials later approached staff members about information that had appeared only in restricted e-mails, according to a person close to the campaign.

American presidential campaigns are not the only targets. China is significantly boosting its capabilities in cyberspace as a way to gather intelligence and, in the event of war, hit the U.S. government in a weak spot, U.S. officials and experts say. Outgunned and outspent in terms of traditional military hardware, China apparently hopes that by concentrating on holes in the U.S. security architecture -- its communications and spy satellites and its vast computer networks -- it will collect intelligence that could help it counter the imbalance.

President Obama, who is scheduled to visit China next week, has vowed to improve ties with the Asian giant, especially its military. But according to current and former U.S. officials, China's aggressive hacking has sowed doubts about its intentions.

"This is the way they plan to thwart U.S. supremacy in any potential conflict we get into with them," said Robert K. Knake, a Council on Foreign Relations fellow. "They believe they can deter us through cyber warfare."

Chinese officials deny that and dismiss American concern as a Cold War relic.