Wiki-Leaks Cables Discuss Vast Hacking by a China That Fears the Web
By JAMES GLANZ and JOHN MARKOF
The New York Times, December 4, 2010
As China ratcheted up the pressure on Google to censor its Internet searches last year, the American Embassy sent a secret cable to Washington detailing why top Chinese leaders had become so obsessed with the Internet search company: they were Googling themselves. The May 18, 2009, cable, titled "Google China Paying Price for Resisting Censorship," quoted a well-placed source as saying that Li Changchun, a member of China's top ruling body, the
Politburo Standing Committee, and the country's senior propaganda official, was taken aback to discover that he could conduct Chinese-language searches on Google's main international Web site. When Mr. Li typed his name into the search engine at google.com, he found "results critical of him."
That cable from American diplomats was one of many made public by WikiLeaks that portray China's leadership as nearly obsessed with the threat posed by the Internet to their grip on power -- and, the reverse, by the opportunities it offered them, through hacking, to obtain secrets stored in computers of its rivals, especially the United States.
Extensive Chinese hacking operations, including one leveled at Google, are a central theme in the cables. The hacking operations began earlier and were aimed at a wider array of American government and military data than generally known, including attacks on computers of American diplomats preparing positions on a climate change treaty.
One cable, dated early this year, quoted a Chinese person with family connections to the elite as saying that Mr. Li himself directed an attack on Google's servers in the United States, though that claim has been called into question. In an interview with The New York Times, the person cited in the cable said that Mr. Li personally led a campaign against Google's operations in China but that to his knowledge had no role in the hacking attack.
The cables catalog the heavy pressure that was placed on Google to comply with local censorship laws, as well as Google's willingness to comply -- up to a point. That coercion began building years before the company finally decided to pull out of China last spring in the wake of the successful hacking attack on its home servers, which yielded Chinese dissidents' e-mail accounts as well as Google's proprietary source code.
The demands on Google went well beyond removing material on subjects like the Dalai Lama or the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Chinese officials also put pressure on the United States government to censor the Google Earth satellite imaging service by lowering the resolution of images of Chinese government facilities, warning that Washington could be held responsible if terrorists used that information to attack Chinese government or military facilities, the cables show. An American diplomat replied that Google was a private company and that he would report the request to Washington but that he had no sense about how the American government would act.
Yet despite the hints of paranoia that appear in some cables, there are also clear signs that Chinese leaders do not consider the Internet an unstoppable force for openness and democracy, as some Americans believe. In fact, this spring, around the time of the Google pullout, China's State Council Information Office delivered a triumphant report to the leadership on its work to regulate traffic online, according to a crucial Chinese contact cited by the State Department in a cable in early 2010, when contacted directly by The New York Times.
The message delivered by the office, the person said, was that "in the past, a lot of officials worried that the Web could not be controlled." "But through the Google incident and other increased controls and surveillance, like real-name registration, they reached a conclusion: the Web is fundamentally controllable," the person said.
That confidence may also reflect what the cables show are repeated and often successful hacking attacks from China on the United States government, private enterprises and Western allies that began by 2002, several years before such intrusions were widely reported in the United States.
At least one previously unreported attack in 2008, code-named Byzantine Candor by American investigators, yielded more than 50 megabytes of e-mail messages and a complete list of user names and passwords from an American government agency, a Nov. 3, 2008, cable revealed for the first time.
Precisely how these hacking attacks are coordinated is not clear. Many appear to rely on Chinese freelancers and an irregular army of "patriotic hackers" who operate with the support of civilian or military authorities, but not directly under their day-to-day control, the cables and interviews suggest.
But the cables also appear to contain some suppositions by Chinese and Americans passed along by diplomats. For example, the cable dated earlier this year referring to the hacking attack on Google said: "A well-placed contact claims that the Chinese government coordinated the recent intrusions of Google systems. According to our contact, the closely held operations were directed at the Politburo Standing Committee level."
The cable goes on to quote this person as saying that the hacking of Google "had been coordinated out of the State Council Information Office with the oversight" of Mr. Li and another Politburo member, Zhou Yongkang." Mr. Zhou is China's top security official.
But the person cited in the cable said he did not make that claim, and also doubted that Mr. Li directed a hacking attack aimed at securing commercial secrets or dissidents' e-mail accounts -- something considered the purview of security officials. Still, the cables provide a patchwork of detail about cyberattacks that State Department and embassy officials believe originated in China with either the assistance or knowledge of the Chinese military.
For example, in 2008 Chinese intruders based in Shanghai and linked to the People's Liberation Army used a computer document labeled "salary increase -- survey and forecast" as bait as part of the sophisticated intrusion scheme that yielded more than 50 megabytes of electronic mail messages and a complete list of user names and passwords from a United States government agency that was not identified.
The cables indicate that the American government has been fighting a pitched battle with intruders who have been clearly identified as using Chinese-language keyboards and physically located in China. In most cases the intruders took great pains to conceal their identities, but occasionally they let their guard down. In one case described in the documents, investigators tracked one of the intruders who was surfing the Web in Taiwan "for personal use."
In June 2009 during climate change talks between the United States and China, the secretary of state's office sent a secret cable warning about e-mail "spear phishing" attacks directed at five State Department employees in the Division of Ocean Affairs of the Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change.
The messages, which purport to come from a National Journal columnist, had the subject line "China and Climate Change." The e-mail contained a PDF file that was intended to install a malicious software program known as Poison Ivy, which was meant to give an intruder complete control of the victim's computer. That attack failed.
The cables also reveal that a surveillance system dubbed Ghostnet that stole information from the computers used by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and South Asian governments and was uncovered in 2009 was linked to a second broad series of break-ins into American government computers code-named Byzantine Hades. Government investigators were able to make a "tenuous connection" between those break-ins and the People's Liberation Army.
The documents also reveal that in 2008 German intelligence briefed American officials on similar attacks beginning in 2006 against the German government, including military, economic, science and technology, commercial, diplomatic, and research and development targets. The Germans described the attacks as preceding events like the German government's meetings with the Chinese government.
Even as such attacks were occurring, Google made a corporate decision in 2006, controversial even within the company, to establish a domestic Chinese version of its search engine, called google.cn. In doing so, it agreed to comply with China's censorship laws. But despite that concession, Chinese officials were never comfortable with Google, the cables and interviews show.
The Chinese claimed that Google Earth, the company's satellite mapping software, offered detailed "images of China's military, nuclear, space, energy and other sensitive government agency installations" that would be an asset to terrorists. A cable sent on Nov. 7, 2006, reported that Liu Jieyi, an assistant minister of foreign affairs, warned the American Embassy in Beijing that there would be "grave consequences" if terrorists exploited the imagery.
A year later, another cable pointed out that Google searches for politically delicate terms would sometimes be automatically redirected to Baidu, the Chinese company that was Google's main competitor in China. Baidu is known for scrubbing its own search engine of results that might be unwelcome to government censors.
Google conducted numerous negotiations with officials in the State Council Information Office and other departments involved in censorship, propaganda and media licensing, the cables show. The May 18, 2009, cable that revealed pressure on the company by Mr. Li, the propaganda chief, said Google had taken some measures "to try and placate the government."
But Chinese officials became alarmed that Google still did less than its Chinese rivals to remove material Chinese officials considered offensive. Such material included information about Chinese dissidents and human rights issues, but also about central and provincial Chinese leaders and their children -- considered an especially taboo topic, interviews with people quoted in the cables reveal.
Mr. Li, after apparently searching for information online on himself and his children, was reported to have stepped up pressure on Google. He also took steps to punish Google commercially, according to the May 18 cable. The propaganda chief ordered three big state-owned Chinese telecommunications companies to stop doing business with Google. Mr. Li also demanded that Google executives remove any link between its sanitized Chinese Web site and its main international one, which he deemed "an illegal site," the cable said.
Google ultimately stopped complying with repeated censorship requests. It withdrew from China earlier this year, citing both the hacking attacks and its unwillingness to continue obeying censorship orders.
James Glanz reported from New York, and John Markoff from San Francisco. Andrew W. Lehren contributed reporting from New York.
Cyber criminals increasing complexity of data attacks
November 10, 2010 11:57 AM
Security threats in 2011 will be targeted, sophisticated and have the feel of something more like cyber-terrorism as the criminals get slicker in their attacks.
The warning comes from Websense, which has published its threat report for next year, pointing out that already the trend for blended web attacks has plagued 2010. The web is the increasing route for criminal activity with recent examples of the Stuxnet and Aurora attacks showing the sophisticated nature of the way data is being targeted.
The conclusion of the Websense report, aside from the threats continuing to grow, is that legacy defences are now not longer adequate protection. "The continued rise of organized cyber criminal gangs and the emergence of targeted advanced malware threats are the most concerning trend we've seen," said Dan Hubbard, CTO at Websense.
One of the other trends from this year that will carry on causing damage is the decision by cyber criminals to target social networking sites in their determination to steal data. "With so many intertwined vectors, these threats demand a new approach to security that looks at both inbound and outbound content. To protect against today's blended and sophisticated threats, companies need to plug the space left by a scattershot spraying of point solutions," said David Redmond, vp of business development, product management and marketing at Websense.
How China swallowed 15% of 'Net traffic for 18 minutes
By Nate Anderson | Last updated a day ago Nov. 18, 2010
In a 300+ page report (PDF) today, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission provided the US Congress with a detailed overview of what's been happening in China--including a curious incident in which 15 percent of the world's Internet traffic suddenly passed through Chinese servers on the way to its destination.
Here's how the Commission describes the incident, which took place earlier this year:
For about 18 minutes on April 8, 2010, China Telecom advertised erroneous network traffic routes that instructed US and other foreign Internet traffic to travel through Chinese servers. Other servers around the world quickly adopted these paths, routing all traffic to about 15 percent of the Internet's destinations through servers located in China.
This incident affected traffic to and from US government (".gov'') and military (".mil'') sites, including those for the Senate, the army, the navy, the marine corps, the air force, the office of secretary of Defense, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and many others. Certain commercial websites were also affected, such as those for Dell, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and IBM.
The culprit here was "IP hijacking," a well-known routing problem in a worldwide system based largely on trust. Routers rely on the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) to puzzle out the best route between two IP addresses; when one party advertises incorrect routing information, routers across the globe can be convinced to send traffic on geographically absurd paths.
This happened famously in 2008, when Pakistan blocked YouTube. The block was meant only for internal use, and it relied on new routing information that would send YouTube requests not to the company's servers but into a "black hole."
As we described the situation at the time, "this routing information escaped from Pakistan Telecom to its ISP PCCW in Hong Kong, which propagated the route to the rest of the world. So any packets for YouTube would end up in Pakistan Telecom's black hole instead." The mistake broke YouTube access from across much of the Internet.
The China situation appears to have a similar cause. The mistaken routing information came from IDC China Telecommunications, and it was then picked up by the huge China Telecom. As other routers around the world accepted the new information, they began funneling huge amounts of US traffic through Chinese servers, for 18 minutes.
As with many things involving cyberattacks and Internet security, it's hard to know if anything bad happened here. The entire thing could have been a simple mistake. Besides, Internet traffic isn't secure and already passes throughmany servers outside of one's control. Content that is sensitive but still suitable for the public Internet should be encrypted. Still, the Commission points out the many possible problems that such an IP hijack could cause.
Although the Commission has no way to determine what, if anything, Chinese telecommunications firms did to the hijacked data, incidents of this nature could have a number of serious implications.
This level of access could enable surveillance of specific users or sites. It could disrupt a data transaction and prevent a user from establishing a connection with a site. It could even allow a diversion of data to somewhere that the user did not intend (for example, to a "spoofed'' site). Arbor Networks Chief Security Officer Danny McPherson has explained that the volume of affected data here could have been intended to conceal one targeted attack.
What about encryption? Perhaps most disconcertingly, as a result of the diffusion of Internet security certification authorities, control over diverted data could possibly allow a telecommunications firm to compromise the integrity of supposedly secure encrypted sessions. The proliferation of certification authorities means that "untrustworthy" certification authorities are much harder to
police, and there's speculation now that governments are involved in getting access to certificates in order to break encryption.
China has openly sought all sorts of encryption information for years, including the source code for routers, network intrusion systems, and firewalls. Those rules went into effect in May 2010, and they require foreign firms to submit this information to Chinese authorities before the government will purchase any such products. But because the government review panels contain employees of rival Chinese firms, and because providing this information could make a company's worldwide products more susceptible to Chinese hacking or cyberattacks (which would in turn kill sales of said products in most countries), the Commission notes that no foreign firm has yet submitted to the new scheme.
Cyber Attacks Test Pentagon, Allies and Foes
By SIOBHAN GORMAN in Washington and STEPHEN FIDLER in London
The Wall Street Journal
SEPTEMBER 25, 2010
Cyber espionage has surged against governments and companies around the world in the past year, and cyber attacks have become a staple of conflict among states.
U.S. military and civilian networks are probed thousands of times a day, and the systems of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters are attacked at least 100 times a day, according to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO's secretary-general. "It's no exaggeration to say that cyber attacks have become a new form of permanent, low-level warfare," he said.
More than 100 countries are currently trying to break into U.S. networks, defense officials say. China and Russia are home to the greatest concentration of attacks.
The Pentagon's Cyber Command is scheduled to be up and running next month, but much of the rest of the U.S. government is lagging behind, debating the responsibilities of different agencies, cyber-security experts say. The White House is considering whether the Pentagon needs more authority to help fend off cyber attacks within the U.S.
"The Obama administration is very focused on this. The president has designated [cyber security] as a critical national asset," said an Obama administration official, adding that agencies responsible for cyber security have been staffing up, including Homeland Security's development of SWAT teams to respond to cyber attacks on critical infrastructure. "Not only do we have a strategy, but we have moved beyond that to implementation."
NATO's systems are behind the U.S.'s, said one person familiar with U.S. assessments of NATO's systems after a recent trip the deputy defense secretary made there. "The Chinese totally owned them," this person said, adding that NATO hadn't installed many of the basic network security patches, because it had decided some of its computers were too important to ever turn off.
NATO spokesman James Appathurai denied Friday that the alliance's computers were regularly compromised. Apart from a couple of disruptions to its public website, there have been no successful infiltrations of NATO's classified systems, he said.
In the U.K., "we expect to see increased resources for cyber-security operations as part of the upcoming security and defense spending review, and hope to work even more closely with the U.S. on such operations," said Sir Nigel Sheinwald, British ambassador to the U.S., on Friday.
Meanwhile, cyber weapons are being developed at a rapid pace. Many countries--including the U.S., Russia, China, Israel, the U.K., Pakistan, India and North and South Korea--have developed sophisticated cyber weapons that can repeatedly penetrate and have the ability to destroy computer networks, cyber-security specialists say.
Some U.S. intelligence officials and analysts worry that cyber weapons may become the next "loose nukes" problem. "The question is: When will these leak to al Qaeda?" said James Lewis, a cyber-security specialist at the Center for Strategic and International studies who regularly advises the Obama administration. "These are very tightly controlled, but some number of years from now, nonstate actors will have really good stuff."
After Russia's 2007 cyber attacks on Estonia and its 2008 attacks on Georgia during their brief war, U.S. officials concluded that cyber attacks had become a staple of modern warfare.
In the past year, cyber attacks have accompanied a host of geopolitical scuffles. India and Pakistan are attacking each other in cyberspace almost daily, attempting to take down websites with denial-of-service attacks. Among the victims have been Indian police websites, an industry cybersecurity specialist said.
As tensions rise between China and Japan, hackers in both countries have lobbed cyber attacks at each other this month, with Chinese denial of service attacks on Japan's Defense Ministry, as well as its trade ministry and others. Earlier this year, a Kuwaiti hacker attacked a handful of Israeli banks.
The recent computer worm dubbed Stuxnet was the first public example of cyber weapons targeting software for computer-control systems. Most of the systems infected were in Iran, and analysts have speculated that the worm was targeting Iran's Bushehr nuclear facility.
Such weapons could also be used to target software running petroleum refining and production facilities, one industry cyber specialist said.
Stuxnet alarmed officials both in the Pentagon and U.S. industry, because it targeted the core of industrial computer-control systems. "Instead of messing with the nervous system, you're going right to the brain now," one U.S. official said.
Gen. Keith Alexander, the chief of the new U.S. Cyber Command told a congressional panel this week: "What concerns me the most is destructive attacks that are coming, and we're concerned that those are the next things that we will see."
The danger, Gen. Alexander said, is that such attacks can do damage that is difficult to reverse and can't be fixed by blocking Internet traffic, destroying computers and other automated devices connected to the Internet before the government or a company can respond.
"That could cause tremendous damage," he said. "If that were to happen in a war zone, that means our command and control system and other things suffer."
Another danger, he said, is that such an attack could be mounted on the U.S. electrical or banking sector, and the affected company would largely be on its own to defend itself.
The White House is still trying to figure out how the government could aid the response to an attack on the private sector. If there were an attack today, Gen. Alexander said, his Cyber Command does not have the authority to respond to it.
"We need to come up with a more dynamic or active defense," he said. "That is what we are working on right now." The Cyber Command is developing a response model, he said, that Homeland Security and the White House might seek to adapt to the civilian sector.
John Sawers, the head of MI6, Britain's foreign intelligence service, told a private meeting of a U.K. parliamentary panel this year that "the whole question of cyber security is shooting up everybody's agendas," and that it is "a major new challenge to the intelligence community."
Jonathan Evans, his counterpart at MI5, the domestic security service, said, "I don't think we are where we need to be."
NATO also needs to develop the means to identify attacks in the early stages and to better detect the source of any attacks, Mr. Rasmussen said. It has set up a new department to cope with the issue: the Emerging Security Challenges Division.
The growth of the threat is prompting calls for an international agreement to limit cyber attacks.
Nigel Inkster, a former senior MI6 official, now with the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, said an agreement needed to establish thresholds beyond which a cyber attack would be deemed to constitute an act of aggression.
Jamie Shea, head of policy and planning in Mr. Rasmussen's office, has also called for an agreement to establish an international consensus on limiting and punishing cyber attacks. Through a U.N. working group, the U.S., China, Russia and other countries have taken initial steps to devise ground rules for cyber crime and cyber warfare.
Write to Siobhan Gorman at firstname.lastname@example.org and Stephen Fidler at email@example.com
Introducing U.S. Cyber Command
By William J. Lynn III
JUNE 3, 2010
The eye blinks in just over 300 milliseconds. In that time a computer message can travel twice around the world, transmitting a virus or malicious computer code across the Internet to disrupt or destroy crucial military networks.
Military computers, just like your home computer, are subject to viruses and malware that can adversely affect their operation. Military networks are also vulnerable to intrusion and theft, but not only by identify thieves and credit card scammers.
More than 100 intelligence agencies and foreign militaries are actively trying to penetrate our systems, and weapons-system blueprints are among the documents that have been compromised. Many countries are also developing offensive cyber capabilities.
Cyberwarfare is especially attractive to our adversaries because the low cost of computing devices means you do not have to build an expensive weapons system, like a stealth fighter, to pose a significant threat. A dozen talented programmers could, if they find a vulnerability to exploit, cripple an entire information system.
To prevent this from happening, the Defense Department is establishing the U.S. Cyber Command. It's mission is critical. The command and control of our forces, as well as our weapons and surveillance systems, depend upon secure and reliable networks to function. Protecting this digital infrastructure is an enormous task: Our military runs 15,000 networks and uses more than seven million computer devices. It takes 90,000 people and billions of dollars to maintain our global communications backbone.
Establishing Cyber Command is just the latest in a series of steps the Pentagon has taken to protect our military networks through layered and robust cyber defenses. We have instituted strict standards to ensure that our firewalls are properly configured and antivirus software up-to-date. We have reduced the number of ports through which commercial Internet traffic enters and leaves military networks, and we have installed highly sophisticated defense systems that detect and repair network breaches in real time.
But we cannot rely solely on a Maginot line of firewalls. It is not sufficient to react to intrusions after they occur. Waiting even milliseconds is too long.
The National Security Agency has therefore pioneered systems that use our monitoring of foreign communications to detect intrusions before they reach our networks and to counter them with automated defenses once they arrive. These active defenses now protect all defense and intelligence networks in the .mil domain.
Thanks to these active defenses, our networks are significantly more secure than they were just two years ago. Yet the cyber threat is so pervasive and pernicious that we must mount a broader and more permanent institutional response.
Until recently, the military's cyber effort was run by a loose confederation of joint task forces spread too far and too wide, geographically and institutionally, to be effective. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recognized that the scale of the cyber enterprise had outgrown the military's existing structures. What is needed is a dedicated command to oversee cyber operations.
U.S. Cyber Command will be led by a four-star general and be part of the military's Strategic Command. It will bring together a half dozen military organizations that each play a role in cyber operations. A single chain of command will run from the head of Cyber Command to units around the world.
When this country was founded, enemy ships crossed the oceans in days. By World War II, aircraft crossed in hours. During the Cold War, missiles could do it in minutes. Now, cyber attacks can strike in less than the blink of an eye. In the face of this threat, the U.S. military must be ready to defend our country at network speed. Mr. Lynn is the deputy secretary of defense.
Now Is the Time to Prepare for Cyberwar
Hackers can already steal from our networks. They could paralyze them too.
By JAY ROCKEFELLER AND OLYMPIA SNOWE
April 2, 2010
'If the nation went to war today in a cyberwar, we would lose. We're the most vulnerable. We're the most connected. We have the most to lose." Former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell delivered that bracing statement at a recent Senate hearing on cybersecurity.
The information networks that nearly every American relies on are under constant attack by sophisticated cyber adversaries. These adversaries target our identities, our money, our businesses, our intellectual property, and our national security secrets. They often succeed. What's more, they have the potential to disrupt or disable vital information networks, which could cause catastrophic economic loss and social havoc. We are not prepared.
President Barack Obama is right to call cyberspace a "strategic national asset." The challenge is that 85% of these assets are owned by private companies and individuals. The government cannot protect cyberspace alone--and neither can the private sector. Therefore, we need proactive collaboration.
As members of both the Senate Commerce and Intelligence committees, we know our national security and our economic security is at risk. We have proposed legislation, the Cybersecurity Act of 2010, that will create a partnership between the government and private companies to protect our information networks before, during and after a crisis. Our bill will do the following:
- Create the position of national cybersecurity adviser to coordinate government efforts and collaborate with private businesses. The person who fills this position would be confirmed by the Senate and answer directly to the president.
- Launch a new public awareness campaign to make basic cybersecurity principles and civil liberty protections as familiar as Smokey the Bear's advice for preventing forest fires.
- Support significant new cybersecurity research and development and triple the federal Scholarship-For-Service program to 1,000 students. This program recruits individuals to study cybersecurity at American universities and then enter public service.
- Create a market-driven process that encourages businesses to adopt good cybersecurity practices and innovate other ways to protect our security. Companies that excel at this will be publicly recognized by the government, and companies that fall short in two consecutive independent audits will be required to implement a remediation plan.
- Encourage government agencies and private businesses to work together to protect our civil liberties, intellectual property rights, and classified information. Our bill provides for unprecedented information sharing, including giving cleared private sector executives access to classified threat information.
- Require the president and private companies to develop and rehearse detailed cyber-emergency response plans in order to clarify roles, responsibilities and authorities in a time of crisis. In a cybersecurity emergency, such as a terrorist attack or a major natural disaster, our country must be prepared to respond without delay.
Our proposal does not take private management responsibility away from private networks. To the contrary, it empowers the owners and operators of critical networks to meet cybersecurity challenges.
Divided fiefdoms in our intelligence community handicapped our ability to thwart the terrorists attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Bureaucratic confusion left our nation unable to properly respond to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. And this past Christmas, a failure to connect the dots nearly allowed a terrorist attack to take place aboard a U.S. airliner outside of Detroit.
We cannot allow similar weaknesses to expose our nation to serious cyber threats. But neither the government nor the private sector can protect our privacy and national security alone. This is a job for our entire country, and this year must be the turning point. We must build a strong public-private partnership for cybersecurity in the 21st century.
Mr. Rockefeller, a Democrat, is a U.S. senator from West Virginia. Ms. Snowe, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Maine
...IS THIS ANOTHER UNHEEDED WARNING, LIKE THE ONES BEFORE 9/11?..."Our society is increasingly relying on new information technologies and the Internet to conduct business, manage industrial activities, engage in personal communications, and perform scientific research. While these technologies allow for enormous gains in efficiency, productivity, and communications, they also create new vulnerabilities to those who would do us harm. The same interconnectivity that allows us to transmit information around the globe at the click of a mouse or push of a button also creates unprecedented opportunities for criminals, terrorists, and hostile foreign nation-states who might seek to steal money or proprietary data, invade private records, conduct industrial espionage, cause a vital infrastructure to cease operations, or engage in Information Warfare." --Ron Dick, former Director of the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Program
NOW THAT THE ELECTIONS ARE OVER, people are once again focusing on war (Afghanistan) and rogue nations (Iran, North Korea, et. al.) and "weapons of mass destruction," but there's another, related story of a similar danger that gets far less attention than it deserves: Cyber-Terrorism. Those with the power to attack the Internet and our communications infrastructure possess dangerous Weapons of Mass Disruption that threaten us all. "The same interconnectivity that allows us to transmit information around the globe at the click of a mouse or push of a button also creates unprecedented opportunities for criminals, terrorists, and hostile foreign nation-states," warned Dick.
In the past decade the story after story broke, and was "buried" because of attacks on the Defense Department, the Army and the Pentagon dating as far back as 2002 and right up to the present. "We are our own worst enemy," said the then, Air Force Major General John Bradley, deputy commander of the Pentagon's Joint Task Force on Computer Network Operations. "The Defense Department is more vulnerable than anyone in the world." (As reported by the UPI). And today, it still is--perhaps worse than ever.
BUT, AS JOHN MARIOTTI HAS BEEN WARNING, THE HARROWING PROSPECT OF CHINESE HACKERS RANGING AROUND IN PENTAGON COMPUTERS IS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG. If terrorists managed to disrupt or destroy the Internet and jam or shut down worldwide electronic communications, worldwide business would screech to halt and America's (and the world's) economy would go into a tailspin. Every plane or jet would have a "terrorist" on board if terrorists or foreign agents managed to compromise the vast, computer-driven air-traffic control system. The world's transportation systems and financial markets could be brought to a standstill. Shipping, billing, manufacturing, communication, would all shut down. Instant messages, cell-phone calls, and email would be lost in the collapse of cyberspace. Corporations and private citizens alike would be affected. Indeed, weapons that attack cyberspace and worldwide communications are "Weapons of Mass Disruption" that could compromise the economic and physical well being of the entire planet.
MANY VOICES HAVE SPOKEN OUT ABOUT THE GROWING THREAT OF CYBER-TERRORISM, BUT THEY ARE LIKE THE VOICES THAT SPOKE OUT ABOUT PLANE HIJACKINGS BEFORE SEPTEMBER 11, AND THE RENEWED TERRORIST THREATS SINCE THEN. They are doomed to be ignored in the absence of the giant "wake-up call" described in The Chinese Conspiracy. Only a crisis or a calamity will focus the world's attention on the looming danger. John Mariotti, an award winning business author with a background in engineering and telecommunications, has studied the threat posed to the United States and the world by cyber-terrorists.
In an effort to focus attention on this growing threat, and to rally the government to deal with it more effectively, John Mariotti has written The Chinese Conspiracy, in which he interweaves real-world situations with technological possibilities that trigger a global turmoil of epic proportions. Ripped from tomorrow's headlines, Mariotti's book is a cautionary tale and a wake-up call. The book may be presented in the guise of "fiction," but the chilling warning it sets forth is all too real. Former NYPD Detective Bo Dietl calls it "so realistically possible, it's scary."
"We couldn't wage a war without the Internet." --Major General Bradley, Deputy Commander of the Pentagon's Joint Task Force on Computer Network Operations
In his new techno-thriller, The Chinese Conspiracy, Mariotti masterfully weaves a tale of cyber-terrorism, tragic plant closings and planetary upheaval as familiar technologies and evil intentions combine as tools of terror and extortion on a global scale. Real-life, current events are a vital element of the novel, making The Silence read like an investigative expos.
The story of a town's devastation by a plant closing is the origin of the story. Lax IT security, greedy capitalists, and arrogant, complacent US organizations aid the power-hungry Chinese revolutionaries. Government authorities are as helpless as the general population against The Chinese Conspiracy.
The premise of The Chinese Conspiracy was also borne out in interviews with Richard Clarke, formerly chairman of the president's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, and more recently author of CyberWar. When asked about threats, he spoke about the nature and potential of the threat to the nation's critical infrastructure from breaches in cyber-security:
"There's a spectrum of threats out there, some of which we experience every day... from [individuals] who simply vandalize Web pages to those who conduct nuisance denial-of-service attacks, ...and criminals who conduct fraud and industrial espionage online. On the high end, however, you face people who potentially could conduct attacks to...stop things from working. ... it's potentially nation-states or terrorist groups. These attacks could be conducted in isolation or in conjunction with a physical attack. ... because those groups would seek to disrupt the national economy." --Richard Clarke
Says Mariotti, "The government, as usual, is moving too slowly and is vulnerable to an attack like the one described in The Chinese Conspiracy. The recent growth of wireless/cell phone and 'always on' broadband connections via cable modems increases the risk. I hope my novel will be an enjoyable read, and will also alert the people of the US who use email and chat groups of the need to protect their systems. It is the vulnerability of Microsoft's PC dominance on millions of personal computers to viruses and worms that cyber-terrorists will capitalize on."
"Protecting cyberspace requires guarding both physical and virtual assets. The Internet is different from every other kind of critical infrastructure we want to protect.... You can keep bad guys off the property if you're protecting a building, but you can't keep people off the Internet. The biggest danger is terrorist hackers coordinating a cyber attack with an attack against a physical target.... Imagine if hackers had taken down the air traffic control system [at the same time as the Sept 11 attack]." --Clyde Wayne Crews, Cato Institute