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For example, Chinese spies were said to have hacked the offi ces of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with other German ministries. German paper Spiegel said that offi cials found the hack and stopped the theft of 160GB of data that was in the process of being copied from German computers.

The hacking of German machines was more widespread, according to a leaked cable from the US State Department, which identifi ed intrusions at “a wide variety of German organizational levels to include German military, economic, science and technology, commercial, diplomatic, research and development”. The cable also indicated that China

specifi cally targeted attacks that would help it benefi t commercially or politically. “German intelligence reporting indicates an increase in activity was detected immediately preceding events such as German Government, or commercial, negotiations involving Chinese interests”, it said.

In this way, attacks against states can bleed over into commercially motivated attacks against private parties. Operation Night Dragon was an alleged infi ltration by Chinese actors against fi ve major oil and gas companies, in an attempt to steal proprietary information. McAfee, which documented the attack, warned that the hackers had stolen data related to bidding contracts and fi nancial data concerning oil fi eld exploration. They had also copied proprietary industrial processes, it warned. Other attacks have been identifi ed against Canadian interests. Canadian media has reported that Chinese hackers compromised the Canadian Treasury Department in 2011, causing computers to be taken offl ine for a period while the problem was rectifi ed. The US isn’t immune, either. The State Department implicated Chinese actors in Operation Byzantine Candor, which targeted US government computers via ISPs. The attackers gained access to lists of emails and password hashes, along with other data. Those behind the operation had infi ltrated hundreds of US government and private

defense contractor systems since 2002, according to internal documents.

Rules of Engagement All this is demonstrably aggressive, but does it constitute cyberwarfare? The term is tossed around a lot in security circles, but its defi nition has serious ramifi cations. What level of cyberattack would constitute an act of war, and have the Chinese perpetrated one?

The US and some allies have taken cyberattacks as acts of war under the Law of Armed Confl ict (LOAC), says Jeffrey Carr, CEO of boutique security consulting fi rm Taia Global, and author of Project Grey Goose, an analysis of Russian cyberwarfare. However, this doesn’t extend itself to acts of espionage, he warns.

“The only legitimate instance of cyberwarfare would be when it is done in conjunction with kinetic attacks, or when the cyber attack has caused so much damage on its own that an armed response is justifi ed under the LOAC”, he says. In this context, attacks on oil company contract data and ministerial computers do not constitute an act of war. Chinese hackers

China mostly limits its activities to cyber espionage for two primary purposes: firstly to accelerate its technological development, and secondly to identify and arrest dissidents

Jeffrey Carr Taia Global

The US is hardly the only alleged target of Chinese cyber espionage. Hackers from the People’s Republic were accused of infiltrating the offices of German Chancellor Angela Merkel

were, however, said to have penetrated the US electrical grid, installing malware that could be used to disrupt the system whenever the attackers deemed it ready, according to a 2009 report in the Wall Street Journal.

In his aforementioned testimony, Larry

Wortzell described a Chinese doctrine of Integrated Network Electronic Warfare, which marries cyberattacks with kinetic strikes, and space warfare. The idea was, said Wortzell, to incapacitate large portions of an enemy’s operations at the onset of any confl ict.

A ‘Special’ Relationship This all sounds very Cold War-like, save for one thing: the economic relationship between China and the US is warm and cozy. The US imported $400bn from China in 2011, and exported only $103bn back, leaving a $295bn trade defi cit. This defi cit is constantly rising, following a fall in 2009, directly after the fi nancial crisis. The US needs China for its cheap labor and goods. China needs the US for its exports. Carr says that this is the primary reason why China wouldn’t want to attack the US. “It mostly limits its activities to cyber /// 21

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