Information Warfare: The Ever Victorious Cyber Army Marches On

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September 5, 2007: China is becoming Computer Crime Central. Case in point is spam that tries to get users to go to a web site that contains programs that will automatically try to infect the visitors PC (usually to load a program that will secretly take over the users computer to send spam, as well as taking useful information, like bank login data). Security researchers believe that 45 percent of those poisoned web sites are in China. Another 21 percent are in the United States, and nearly as many in Russia. China also has become the Internet home of many computer crime operations. The computer crooks may not physically be in China, but there are many ISPs (Internet Service Providers) there that don't seem to mind that so much criminal activity runs via their facilities. This is common in Russia as well, where at least one ISP specializes in supporting criminals, and gets away with it because of powerful political friends.

Increasingly, this snake pit of Internet iniquity appears connected with the growing number of attacks on Western military and government networks. There have been several of these major attacks in the last year, hitting targets like the U.S. National Defense University, the office of the Secretary of Defense, the Naval War College, Fort Hood and several defense contractors. Several German government sites were hit as well, and other European nations are also believed to be under attack. The scary part of this is that these are the attacks that have been discovered, while they were still underway. The perfect attack is one that is carried out without the victim ever being aware that their security has been breached and their secrets carried away.

In the United States, each of these attacks cost $20-30 million to clean up after. What no one will talk much about is exactly what was lost. The Germans admitted that nearly 200 gigabytes of data was transmitted back to China. The American attacks apparently inflicted damage of a similar scale. China denies everything. China also continues to establish the equivalent of a police state within the Chinese portion of the Internet. Many Western Internet experts didn't think this was possible, but the Chinese have gone a long way towards proving them wrong. At the same time, China is still one of the most vulnerable Internet neighborhoods. This is largely due to so much illegal (not-paid for) operating systems and applications software. This stuff tends to be less well protected than systems in the West, and China has fewer Internet security specialists. Many in the West are calling for a cyber offensive against the Chinese. But if this were allowed, there would be no official announcement. So far, cyber war is largely conducted in the shadows.

 


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