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30+ countries now have the capability to engage in cyber warfare and espionage”, he says, adding that at least a dozen are as active as China. These include Russia, France, Germany, Israel, Taiwan, South Korea, Brazil, India, Turkey, and Iran.

The picture is muddied by the internal structure of the Chinese hacking community. On the one hand, the Chinese government is known to be pursuing a network-centric military (as is the US). But unlike the US, its cultural and social structure has created a strong cadre of independently motivated hacking groups that are extremely patriotic. In his book about Chinese hackers, Dark

Visitor, Scott Henderson discusses the rise of these groups in the mid-90s. They began as patriotic groups, and were involved in

some attacks against political targets such as Indonesia, defacing websites with political messages. They have since devolved into fi nancially motivated cybercriminal groups that target Western users. “China is the only country in Asia nowadays with a truly organized underworld following Russia’s pattern”, argues Alex Kuzmin. “Other Asian countries do have their own cybercrime structure, but not at this level.”

Is there anything to be done against the threat from China, whether state-sponsored or from independent groups? Probably even less so than there is against other countries, argues Hayes. “China’s so big that there just won’t be any kind of sanctions against them for these actions”, he predicts.

Perhaps so. Less than six months after announcing that it would re-evaluate its business in China, Google said that it would be relocating its servers back in China. And what of the huge hack that compromised Google’s single sign-on system and snooped on Chinese activists? Nothing at all was said.

There is a war of sorts going on between China and the US, just as there is between the US and many other countries. The war is economic, and electronic, and it is perhaps the most Orwellian of all. It involves a form of doublethink in which companies create trading relationships so strong that huge swathes of one’s supply chain rests on the activities of another. In this bizarre world, not a shot is fi red. Instead, secrets are being stolen, byte by byte.

Bull’s-eye on IP

Google’s early 2010 disclosure of the so-called Operation Aurora attacks was one in a string of persistent cyberattacks attributed to a “state actor” (read: China). Here are just some of the organizations – confirmed or reportedly – victimized during Operation Aurora:

• Google • Adobe Systems • Juniper Networks • Rackspace • Yahoo! • Symantec • Northrop Grumman • Morgan Stanley • Dow Chemical /// 23

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