Information Warfare: May 26, 2002


There is growing concern over Chinese cyberwar capabilities. While the Chinese government has toned down it's public support for Internet based attacks on the U.S., thousands of Chinese student hackers can't stop chattering (and bragging) on the net about what a formidable cyberwar power China is becoming. This is turning out to be one weakness for the Chinese cyberwar strategy. The government needs all these engineers and computer science students as a recruiting pool for their military cyberwar units. The operations of these outfits are secret, but not their existence. Once in uniform, it's easy enough to keep the Chinese geeks quiet, but while they are in school they assert their right to carouse across the Internet and play the "my code's nastier than yours" game with their peers around the world. This is apparently proving to be a major source of intelligence on Chinese cyberwar plans. Of particular interest is the origins of the Code Red virus. This computer virus was considered particularly dangerous because it could be just inserted into vulnerable web servers. The Chinese have been insisting that Code Red was not theirs and was beyond their technical capabilities. That appears to be the kind of disclaimer only a clueless government bureaucrat could come up with. It's well known in the Internet community that it was Chinese programmers who discovered vulnerabilities in Microsoft's IIS Internet Server software like those that allowed Code Red to work. Unfortunately for the nervous public, the efforts to find out what the Chinese are up to must remain secret, lest the Chinese pinpoint the leaks on their end and plug them up. So far the Chinese are "suggesting" that students be discrete in chat rooms and message boards. If it were known that major chunks of information on Chinese cyberwar operations were leaking from these sources, the government would make a major effort to crack down. It probably wouldn't work, and there are no doubt other sources of intelligence on Chinese cyberwar efforts. But this is how the intelligence game plays out. 


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