July 27, 2008

China Tech Threat Update

"China appears to be enhancing their technological threat capabilities through various channels ..."

A recent investigation, “Operation Cisco Raider” – a cooperative effort between the U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection, the FBI and U.S. Attorneys Offices - has led to the seizures of counterfeit Cisco Systems products valued at $76 million entering the U.S. market.

Counterfeit Cisco routers, switches, interface cards, and network hardware pose a risk to U.S. companies in terms of infiltration through hacking and malfunction, a point made also by U.S. Attorney –General Alice Fisher:

"Counterfeit network hardware entering the marketplace raises significant public safety concerns, and must be stopped. This initiative shows that through collaboration among law enforcement agencies and prosecutors worldwide, we can achieve dramatic enforcement results and protect public safety … It is critically important that network administrators in both private sector and government perform due diligence in order to prevent counterfeit hardware from being installed on their networks."

Earlier, the FBI’s Cyber Investigations Division presented newly unclassified information that illustrated the extent of counterfeit computer and network hardware. The FBI fears Chinese Hackers and/or Government Agents are developing a back door into U.S. Government & Military Computer Networks:

“Some months ago, my contacts in the defense industry had alerted me to a startling development that has escalated to the point of near-panick in nearly all corners of Government security and IT infrastructure. The very-real concern, being investigated by the FBI, is that either the Chinese government or Chinese hackers (or both) have had the benefit of undetectable back-doors into highly secure government and military computer networks for months, perhaps years. The cause: a high-number of counterfeit Cisco routers and switches installed in nearly all government networks that experienced upgrades and/or new units within the past 18 months.” more >>

Of greater concern are comments made by Samuel King from the University of Illinois. A computer science expert specializing in Security, Operating systems, Experimental software systems, and Virtual Machines, he recently noted that equipment shipped from Shenzhen City might have been sold to gain access to sensitive U.S. military data and has made a good case for malicious hardware being the next hackers’ tool of choice.

"Malicious hardware is more problematic because it is more difficult to detect; China is already using an early, and simple, version of malicious hardware in its massive military and industrial espionage campaign against Western countries and companies. We wrote last week about how Chinese companies, controlled by the Chinese military, have manufactured counterfeit Cisco routers and switches and offered them at exceedingly low prices to U.S. vendors who had contracts to upgrade or replace U.S. government IT systems." more >>

China also poses a growing tech threat through a strategy of using informal spy networks to acquire sensitive technology with commercial and military applications that can eventually erode U.S. economic and military strength.

"China is stepping up its overt and covert efforts to gather intelligence and technology in the United States, and the activities have boosted Beijing's plans to rapidly produce advanced-weapons systems, reports The Washington Times in part two of its two-part series on China's growing threat to US security. China's spies use as many as 3,200 front companies -- many run by groups linked to the Chinese military -- that are set up to covertly obtain information, equipment and technology, US officials say. Additionally, the Chinese use hundreds of thousands of Chinese visitors, students and other nonprofessional spies to gather valuable data, most of it considered "open source," or unclassified information." more >>

Infiltration

We have also seen instances of unauthorized access of the highest order. Just last month, Stephen Brown wrote an interesting piece at FrontPage that detailed the infiltration of computer networks by Chinese hackers on the offices of two Republican Congressman.

“Cyber warfare officially arrived on Capitol Hill last week. Two Republican congressmen, Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia and Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, went public last Wednesday with the news that in 2006 and 2007 their office computer networks had been breached by Chinese hackers. The cyber raiders were not looking for sensitive military or economic data. Instead, they apparently tried to steal political information about Chinese dissidents. “My suspicion is that I was targeted by Chinese sources because of my long history of speaking out about China’s abysmal human rights record,” Wolf told the Washington Times. Both congressmen said the attacks were made against aides who “…worked specifically on China and human rights issues ... China’s largest cyber-raid in the United States occurred in 2004. The assault was so massive that American security authorities gave it a code name, “Titan Rain.” Computers in several defense and space installations were targeted and thousands of unclassified documents, both military and industrial, were stolen. Fortunately, classified military information is not directly connected to the internet; but data found in those unclassified networks can also be of a sensitive nature. Equally brazen was a 2007 cyber attack on Pentagon computers. That attack saw Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ computer system compromised. The perpetrator in this case was believed to have been the People’s Liberation Army." more >>

Whether the China tech threat constitutes real danger to U.S., security is still a matter for debate. The fear is that the current Presidential race in conjunction with Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran – The War on Terror – is diverting attention away from some very real instances of security breaches. One thing is certain, China appears to be enhancing their technological threat capabilities through various channels; something that should raise eyebrows and make even the most cynical security experts worry.

See also:
Taskforce seizes $76 Million in counterfeit Cisco network hardware
Cyberwarfare: The next challenge

17 comments:

Aurora said...

Excellent article, Otto. I've always thought China was one of the biggest, and yet the most underestimated threats. We're all so consumed with the threat of jihad that we tend to ignore this one. Never mind that China is estimated to have 2000 spies in Australia alone at the moment. It's difficult to know which threat will be uppermost in the next decade.

WomanHonorThyself said...

Interesting Otto and look whats on the front page today:
China gymnasts under age?
There are questions about some of the competitors at the Beijing Olympics.

Layla said...

Great post Otto. I am surprised by the fact that many are turning a blind eye on these facts.

If you have time, stop by my place-I have an update post on Honor Killings like you will not see elsewhere, because in an indirect sense I have had personal experience with Islam.

Karen said...

Terrific post - chock full of good info. China is one of those issues I don't want to know so much about, though I do believe they are an impending threat to us. Huge military, rolling in money, financing so much of the U.S. debt, and finely honed spying skills. Not so good for us, that's for sure.

MK said...

Excellent summary Otto, if i remember correctly, China is known to have tried it's activities in New Zealand even. Watch the dragon like you would a real one folks. Never forget the Communists let millions of their own die, why would they care for us any more.

"We wrote last week about how Chinese companies, controlled by the Chinese military, have manufactured counterfeit Cisco routers and switches and offered them at exceedingly low prices to U.S. vendors who had contracts to upgrade or replace U.S. government IT systems."

Technology is a dog-eat-dog world, perhaps they could arrange for those selling out to make a buck to spend a long time in federal prison, that ought to clear up any doubts in the minds of those easily swayed.

Z said...

they're getting more ready for mayhem and our left keeps us from reacting or preparing ourselves in kind because we have to show "we're better than they are"...what timing: China's getting tough just as our kids have been indoctrinated into thinking nobody really means us harm..they're just reacting to our evil past! HELP!
Great post, Otto, but this subject makes me very uncomfortable because I don't see a way OUT!

Layla Gonzalez said...

Thanks for coming by Otto. I also want you to know that I noted several other blogger blogging on China et al. I am glad this is finally getting the attention it truly deserves.

Thank you.

~Layla

The Lonely Conservative said...

Great post AI. Just as we send so much of our money to the middle east in oil revenue, we send even more money to China with the products we purchase. Some would say we are financing our own destruction.

The Lonely Conservative said...

Great post AI. Just as we send so much of our money to the middle east in oil revenue, we send even more money to China with the products we purchase. Some would say we are financing our own destruction.

The Lonely Conservative said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Incognito said...

great post, Otto.

We are so underestimating the threat of China. The problem is we are being lulled into complacency by their increasing economic openness, but that doesn't fundamentally change what the government is: Communist.

Debbie said...

Must have missed this one, great job. Also of note, China is making the United States Olympic team uniforms. Very sad.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Great post Otto. I have enjoyed this recent series on China and it is also something extremely relevant that needs to be revealed to the public.

The danger from China's tech advancement is real and I hope that while on the face Washington seems to be ingnoring it, behind the scenes there is an effort to investigate and secure this nation from the real threat it creates.

While I do not think it is a threat that poses an immediate extreme danger, it is a threat that must be understood and measures taken to prevent it from being an extreme danger.

Tapline said...

Otto, Outstanding....I'm sure we are aware of the threat and reacting to it.....just not broadcasting it,,,,yet,,,,,,stay well.....

Jeff said...

In so many ways China is a threat. Geat post, Otto.

Z said...

Debbie! CHINA makes EVERYTHING...but the thought of their making OUR UNIFORMS is sickening!

I'm SO tired of seeing MADE IN CHINA on everything I buy! Man, they OWN us..! That might be the one reason they DON'T attack us in any way....watching over their best interests? (what a thought, huh?)

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