Hackers connected to China’s government infiltrated a U.S. government computer network containing some of Washington’s most sensitive information, the Washington Free Beacon reported on September 30.
U.S. authorities officially won’t blame China for the attacks, but experts say the hack was the handiwork of Chinese military cyberwarfare specialists tied to a unit called the 4th Department of General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army. Since the hacked system is used for America’s nuclear commands, this cyberattack is considered one ofBeijing’s most belligerent ever against the U.S.
The hack was carried out in early September by the spear phishing method, in which disguised e-mails ask recipients to disclose confidential information. Security officials are still investigating the incident to determine the specific level of damage that resulted from it, and some officials remain concerned that the attackers were successful in breaching the classified information. If they are right, and Beijing’s attack was successful, China could use the information in future conflicts to locate the president for targeting purposes, to disrupt the president’s strategic command of U.S. forces both in the country and abroad, and to intercept presidential communications.
The incident underscores the abysmal failure of the Obama administration to confront China about its cyberespionage.
Former McAffee cyberthreat researcher Dmitri Alperovitch said this about China’s incessant attacks on U.S. intelligence:
[T]he Chinese have an aggressive goal to infiltrate all levels of U.S. government and private sector networks. The White House network would be the crown jewel of that campaign, so it is hardly surprising that they would try their hardest to compromise it.
China’s belligerency is nothing new, but Beijing’s rapidly expanding technological reach now allows it to extend that belligerency in new directions, up to soaring new heights and down to murky new depths. Washington’s failure to take decisive action against Beijing’s acts of cyberwarfare is naive, but for a nation with a broken pride in its power, it is not surprising. Watch for China’s bellicosity to continue to calcify, and for America’s pride in its power to continue to erode. ▪