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  • Aug 23, 2014
  • Updated: 9:54am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2013, 3:21am

America's two-faced tirade against Chinese 'cyberwar'

Hey, kettle. It's pot here, calling to denounce you with evidence you are undermining world peace.

The Obama administration is planning to confront the new leadership in Beijing, according to The New York Times, over the cyberwarfare that the Chinese state is allegedly waging against America and its top corporations.

The evidence? A dubious report by commercial internet security firm Mandiant - which was not peer-reviewed by any independent experts - and which has generated so much free publicity for them by accusing China of being the world's worst cyber-rogue state.

According to the company and now the White House, almost every item on a lengthy, confidential list of IP addresses - linked to a hacking group that has stolen terabytes of data from US corporations - could be traced to a neighbourhood in Shanghai that hosts the Chinese military's cybercommand. Even Hong Kong's own University of Science and Technology reportedly had a few addresses on the list.

These attacks were presented as sophisticated and state-sponsored. But how sophisticated?

Strangely, these master hackers from China all forgot to hide their internet traces. In fact, they did the opposite: they left their fingerprints all over the crime scene so it could all be traced back to a single People's Liberation Army source in Shanghai! Just how smart could these guys be?

Or perhaps they weren't the real perpetrators. Presumably, any self-respecting hacker or cybercriminal worth his salt would plant false leads and hide tracks so his crime can't be traced back to him. Who would leave behind a long list of IP addresses to implicate himself and pinpoint his location to a single postal address?

To date, the only confirmed act of state-sponsored cyberwarfare has been by the United States and its closest ally, Israel, against Iran's nuclear weapons programme.

Like nuclear weapons (with the Soviets) and weapons of mass destruction (with Iraq), an enemy is needed before Washington can legitimise the development of new military capability or go to war … or launch drone assassinations - oh, sorry, I meant targeted killings - that have caused thousands of deaths, many of them innocent bystanders, in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.

Which is the rogue state?

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Oinfosys
Alex,
Marc Vo
CTO for Oinfosys inc. in San Francisco Ca.
I would like to congratulate you on your article.
Although it is an Opinion Piece. You have motivated me to respond.
My organizations Core business is technology research specializing in leap frogging technologies.
Let me first give you my email address Marc@oinfosys.com
My team of technology researchers and myself is available to you.
Please contact me anytime.
Your pieces contains no facts at all. The I.T. industry Norm for peer reviewed is to release the data and Industry leaders and experts from all over the world will Flame you if you are wrong.
As an american I am offended. I assume that you believe your reader to be only from Asia.
Let me clear that up right now.
The South China Morning Post has a global audience.
Your statement " The evidence? A dubious report by commercial internet security firm Mandiant "
I applaude Mandiant for their courage to stand by their work and put their expertise
on the net for all to see and review.
IMO Mandiant's goal is to create a dialog between our two Economies.
To address the elephant in the room and invent a forum for containing
the corporate interllectual property robbery.
I will be posting this to my readers on Google Plus and Linkedin.com
Looking forward to speaking with you.
Cheers, Marc
wang.feng
Posting comment on behalf of reader whymak
"A reader asked: “Have you (or Mr. Lo) ever actually read a refereed computer science journal paper?” Thanks for your condescending comment.
Indeed I had in my R&D days before I became a professional manager. As a matter of fact, I am still working unsuccessfully on an algorithm right this very minute after a few passes. And that's just all for fun. So eat your heart out, my friend.
No, I have never taken a single course in computer science but had designed a commercial CPU with pipeline architecture as well as the entire instruction set for the microcode control store in the CPU. Here is the meaning of this gibberish. I wrote the microcode implementing my assembly language instruction set for the computer’s CPU. Comprende? Verstehen Sie? Now are you satisfied?
The trouble with ignorant China baiters is their own tunnel vision, 坐井觀天.
Elsewhere in this column I just responded to another reader related to Ken Thompson's talk on rootkit malware. But I don't suppose you know who Ken Thompson is or what programmable logic controller rootkit means.
Now you can go back and wallow in your hate China diatribes."
honkiepanky
I am the poster of the condescending comment in question, which seems to have gone over your head. Not sure why you think jargon and name dropping (and yes, I do have the credentials to understand perfectly well - I have read as well as published computer science papers) are going to impress anyone.
caractacus
Alex, for a normally rational person you have a real chip on the shoulder about America. Every time a story reflects badly on China or Chinese you react by pointing the finger elsewhere as if someone else's misbehaviour whitewashes China's conduct or makes it ok. Well, it doesn't. Look in the mirror for once, or can you not bear the idea of your nation or race losing face?
wwong888
pls take it easy on alex. he is just following orders from his new commie editor. gotta kiss china's a$$. the owners of the scmp have a lot of business interests in china. who knows, maybe they will sell the paper to xinhua and then alex can point to his patriotic pieces over the years. sad.
GeorgeChow2000@yahoo.com
This couldn't be more true than my mind could speak. Especially for the drone attack, what will happen if China deploy drones (which I think she has the capability) in India/Israel and kills what she might claim to be enemy of the state, of China? I am not a communist, in any sense, and my parents actually suffered under the Communist regime back in the 60s, but I resolutely reject the idea of coming up with an allegation that only has the most dubious evidence to substantiate it.
boondeiyan
Dude, where's my motive? You seem to have gotten lost along the way to figuring out why exactly the US government would send a private company to do a slightly amusing job of Google-search-as-white-paper as political smear. What, it's not enough grounds for Washington to get snotty with Beijing when some large majority of PCs in China are running pirated Windows among other software? Quick, how many blocks from Huaihai Zhonglu in the middle of Shanghai do you have to walk to find hundreds of pirated DVDs? Uh, zero point five at most. There is already plenty of easily obtainable evidence that the Chinese government abets IP theft from the US. There is every reason to assume that Beijing still follows Sun Tzu's precepts and has at least tried to ramp up its cyber-espionage/warfare capabilities given how much China's potential adversaries will have invested in such. Why do you make it out to be such a stretch from one point on this continuum to the next? Why slog the muddy path of moral equivalence? Slow news day I guess...
rsallen
Is there anything more futile than a playground-style, "my superpower is more moral than your superpower" argument? Alex's piece looks like a knee-jerk reaction which is based, not on the actual report, but on press reports of it. His point as regards hacking seems to be, "well you started it." He's right to criticise the US use of drones, but fails to mention that China is not far from using them itself, as discussed in Gerg Torode's piece.
I usually enjoy Alex Lo's columns; heck I even agree with some of them. But this one is pretty silly.
whymak
You're putting words into Mr. Alex Lo's mouth when you insisted he said, "my superpower is more moral than your superpower." His statement clearly implies that the US, as well as other China bashing readers are hypocrites - two-faced morons speaking with forked tongues - lacking both logic and rectitude.
I am no apologist for China's misdeeds. Mr. Lo can speak for himself. But it's the sanctimoniousness and projectionist mind of some readers in this column which need a sanity check.
China is not far from using drones? Sure. Greg Torode is projecting that China will do in future exactly just as what the West did in the past - traf**** slaves, peddling opium and slaughtering 500,000 Filipinos during Spanish American War. I am glad you find your favorite columnist to commiserate with on the ascension of China.
rsallen
When you label anyone who disagrees with your peculiarly bigoted views "a moron" you immediately shed any credibility you might have had. China makes no secret of its intention to use drones. ****defensetech.org/2012/09/24/china-seeks-drones-to-monitor-islands/
So you're factually wrong and abusive. Good work.
honkiepanky
Is this article a joke? Does Alex really believe he knows computer security better than Mandiant (the most respected firm in the industry)? Perhaps the hackers should have been more careful, but the fact is they were not, and they were caught.
The fact that the U.S. has done things that Alex doesn't agree with to hostile countries like Iran is neither here nor there. It is irrelevant to the hacking accusations at hand, which are primarily a case of corporate espionage and bring into question what little trust there is between China and the U.S. in the economic sphere.
whymak
I am going to confuse you with some facts. Why is Iran, a developing country, such a deadly enemy to the US, the unprecedented hyperpower in history?
In 1953, Iranians elected Mohammed Mossadegh to head their government. But BP and CIA couldn’t countenance a nationalist who might strip away oil interests of the West. They staged a coupe that overthrew Mossadegh and had him locked away. Reza Pahlavi was then installed as the absolute monarch, who proceeded to spend Iran’s oil wealth on US armaments and impoverished his people.
The 1979 revolution brought the cleric Ayatollah Komeini to power. America couldn’t stand for it. Under the Reagan-Saddam Hussein alliance, Richard Cheney supported Saddam’s eight-year war against Iran with military aid and war materiel, including chemicals needed for manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. 800,000 Iranians perished, with mustard gas claiming countless Iranian victims.
Who has the right to hate the other, the US or Iran? Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most evil of them all?
In ideological disputes, lies are convenient, but not facts.
blue
What exactly are your credentials? Are you shilling for Mandiant? In another post you compared Mandiant's link bait report to a computer science paper. You're either an idiot or a corporate shill.
FYI Mandiant's founder Kevin Mandia is an ex-military cyber-forensics investigator.
No matter how good Mandiant's computer forensics is, any sophisticated hacker can cover their tracks if needed. Mandiant knows this. But instead, they'd rather create a sensational report that gives them free publicity ahead of their rumored IPO plans.
If this report really is so iron clad, it should be opened up to peer review!
honkiepanky
You need to go back and re-read the comment I was responding to. It was whymak who brought up "referreed journals in computer science", which is an irrelevant standard to compare Mandiant's paper to.
The Wall Street Journal and New York Times have put their credibility behind Mandiant's research. Their articles contain plenty of corroborating evidence. I realize that no amount of evidence is ever going to convince the "patriots" here, but the rest of the world doesn't find China's denials credible in the least.
blue
He wrote "especially those pseudo scientific papers written for idiots that could never pass muster of refereed journals in computer science.". He's clearly referring to Mandiant's paper as pseudo scientific. Though you're right that comparing a paper on computer security with a computer science paper is really apples and oranges.
Also I personally don't consider the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal (owned by News corp now) to be all that credible; Tesla Motors certainly doesn't feel that a New York Times reporter was very honest when reviewing their new electric car.
Source: ****www.wired.com/autopia/2013/02/tesla-logs-nytimes/
whymak
Mr. Lo, everything you said makes sense, especially those pseudo scientific papers written for idiots that could never pass muster of refereed journals in computer science.
A reader says, "Dozens if not hundreds of interviews were conducted with people in the US government and private sector who were the victims of these attacks or who were tasked to stop them." He is just as moronic as Hong Kong nitwits who insisted hundreds of students died in Tiananmen because "everyone" said so. Millions and millions said Jesus arose from the dead after 3 days. I suppose that is now a scientific fact.
"Israel and probably the US commited an act of cyber warfare to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon." Right. Who was the enemy with nuclear aspirations when Israel stole at least two shipments of enriched uranium from the US to build its first nuclear devices? Why did Israel attack USS Liberty and kill 33 sailors to hide its initiation of a full attack on Egypt, and later Jordan and Syrian? Where are **** (Richard) Cheney's alleged yellow cake and WMDs?
I suppose both Israel and the US had to avert an "act of war," another word for Lebensraum for Israel at the Arab's expense.
War criminals, or for that matter, people supporting war crimes against humanity, always have their excuses.
honkiepanky
Have you (or Mr. Lo) ever actually read a refereed computer science journal paper? Here's a tip: they address research into the mathematics and techniques of computer science, not questions of who hacked whom.
whymak
Indeed I had in my R&D days before I became a professional manager. As a matter of fact, I am still working unsuccessfully on an algorithm right this minute after a few passes. And that's just all for fun. So eat your heart out, my friend.
No, I have never taken a single course in computer science but had designed a commercial CPU with pipeline architecture as well as the entire instruction set for the microcontroller store in the CPU. Comprende? Verstehen Sie? Now are you satisfied?
The trouble with ignorant China baiters is their own tunnel vision, 坐井觀天.
Elsewhere in this column I just responded to another reader related to Ken Thompson's talk on rootkit malware. But I don't suppose you know who Ken Thompson is or what programmable logic controller rootkit means.
Now you can go back and wallow in your hate China diatribes.
chauhy
Oh when a beggar come along asking for money, you either give him a few nickles or run away, you do not reason with him whether or not you should give him money
whymak
I ought to learn from you how to be kind to beggars. I still have this vestigial habit from my corporate days, i.e., throwing pearls before swine (empty suits).
blue
Sorry but I have to laugh. You're seriously comparing Mandiant's report to a computer science paper with a straight face?
honkiepanky
Umm, no. Go re-read please.
blue
He wrote "especially those pseudo scientific papers written for idiots that could never pass muster of refereed journals in computer science.". He's clearly referring to Mandiant's paper as pseudo scientific. Though you're right that comparing a paper on computer security with a computer science paper is really apples and oranges.
anson
steven.pieragastini, who are you?
blue
He's an arrogant nobody who is overpaid for a job that a local can do.
steven.pieragastini
Well, nothing refutes baseless accusations like more baseless accusations. But unlike your article, the report was the result of years of research. Dozens if not hundreds of interviews were conducted with people in the US government and private sector who were the victims of these attacks or who were tasked to stop them.
Israel and probably the US commited an act of cyber warfare to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and, it should be noted, avert an actual act of war which was the alternative. Hackers inside China have been stealing intellectual property and military information from the US and other countries for over a decade. You're telling me the PRC, with all its state surveillance either isn't guiding it or isn't able to do anything about it? That's a bunch of stuff, as we in the US say. If you believe that, I've got some things to sell you.
This is a poorly argued article that probably took as much time for the author to write as this comment. I really wonder if Mr Lo's true "take" is coming from the Chinese Communist Party because there's no way a newspaper as good as SCMP would actually pay someone to write such garbage.
docomo
Well, nothing refutes baseless accusations like more baseless accusations. - Agreed.
But unlike your article, the report was the result of years of research- The Mandiant report is ANNUALl report that also serves as a marketing tool for the company.
Dozens if not hundreds of interviews were conducted with people in the US government and private sector who were the victims of these attacks - 'Interviews' are hardly what one would consider gold standard research methodology; since many of your countrymen have a propensity to whack the China bogeyman.
Israel and probably the US commited an act of cyber warfare to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and, it should be noted, avert an actual act of war which was the alternative - Whatever rock your balls, as we in Asia say. Or whatever Fox News tells you.
Hackers inside China have been stealing intellectual property and military information from the US - The US has been involved in international espionage since the Cold War. What are its measures to guard its own territory against the own home-bred Anonymous, when 'blame the chinamen' ceased to work?
anson
A more intelligent observation would see this as simply a prelude to yet another US edict aimed at boosting US business at the expense of PRC business. The US has been waging a trade way of sorts against the PRC for some time. This issue has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with business. I think we can expect to see increased US Gov't expenditure in this industry in the not too distant future.
BTW Hong Kong people are not easily conned by b.s. and most HK people can see through the US game and applaud Alex for simply stating the obvious.
blue
Alex got several things right in the article including the fact that the report by Mandiant was not peer reviewed and have in fact done quite the opposite by keeping a list of ip addresses confidential. Alex is also right about the state sponsored cyber warfare that the US did against Iran. Alex is referring to the stuxnet computer worm that was designed to shut down Iran's powerplant.
Also as someone who has some knowledge about IT, I can also confirm that it would be very easy for a hacker to bounce their connection off a bunch of proxies in China to make everything appear as if it originated from China.
Accusing Alex of being a CCP stooge just because you're a thin skinned American is really low. Reality check: Not everything America does is ethical. In fact America rarely respects the sovereignty of other nations; America's use of drones in violation of Pakistan's airspace to murder people without any due process is one of many examples.
Also your whining about China stealing intellectual property from the US is rich considering the level of espionage the CIA engages in to spy on China as well as the rest of the world.
whymak
Of course, you're right about this one. Any cyber warfare that has China's official blessings is likely to have the fingerprint of malware running off the root directory of the kernal, which was something I heard from Ken Thompson years ago at Bell Labs after he bagged the Turing award.
honkiepanky
Right, I'm sure that Mandiant never thought about the possibility that the hackers used proxy servers.
Maybe you should go read the report.
blue
I have. It's basically impossible to tell the difference between a direct attack and a attack via proxy if the proxy server is configured not to report itself. Therefore, there is plenty of reasonable doubt in Mandiant's report. But Mandiant knows that they do not need to prove guilt without a reasonable doubt to get the media, US government, and American public to side with them.
 
 
 
 
 

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