Most developed countries are engaged in internet attacks - hacking the information systems of other countries. They are also testing weapons for cyber warfare – both offensive and defensive. In the early 1990’s, as part of its strategic objective of becoming a military, industrial and financial superpower and emerge from what was still in many respects (even under Chairman Mao) a mediaeval society, China instigated a series of programs, the results of which are making the news on a regular basis.
Deep Water Fishes
In the Chinese worldwide intelligence infrastructure organisation, the foundation of the military and economic/political intelligence ’vacuum cleaner’ as they call it is the so-called ‘deep water fishes’. The term goes back to 1983, and refers to the 10,000 or so agents that the country has in place in nearly two hundred cities across the world. China’s internet intelligence gathering and cyberwar operations are even more insidious and pervasive.
The Cyberwarrior Army
Under the direction of the then President Jiang Zemin, a vast army of so-called cyberwarriors was set up by General Dai Qingmin to engage in cyberwar. The cyberwarriors design spam, malware, distributed denial of service and viruses to penetrate and paralyse their enemy in a war situation. They also control the internet in China (and ultimately forced Google to pull out), and run the so-called ‘Golden Shield’ program which monitors e-mails, chat and mobile phone SMS within its borders.
Recently, there have been massive and well-coordinated cyberattackscyberassualts on commercial websites. Many observers believe that China is behind some of these attacks, though those in the Western intelligence services who know the truth are keeping their own counsel. Undoubtedly, there are experts in commercial computer security companies who also know the truth, but they will not ‘go public’ with their knowledge.
Certainly, any country which prepares for warfare of any kind has to test its weapons, and the Chinese are not the only culprits here. Cyberwarfare is underway right now, from simple intelligence gathering by hacking military and commercial databases, right through to offensive use for destructive purposes, including by Western governments.
Stuxnet and Iran
One such example of a software assault is – ‘malware’. Insidious, dangerous and highly effective, and illustrated very clearly by the Stuxnet worm. This is thought by some to have been developed jointly by Israel and the USA. The worm circulated freely on the web and apparently had multiple authors on several continents – the trail was designed to confuse and hard to trace back, but clearly false. Eventually, in 2010, Stuxnet found its way into the German company Siemens’s control programs for the gas centrifuges used in the Iranian uranium enrichment program. Many centrifuges spun out of control and about twenty percent were wrecked. This critical assault reputedly delayed the Iranian quest for a nuclear bomb by several years.
Truth is a Casualty
Wherever there was conflict in the 20th century, there was infowar (Winston Churchill said that ‘truth is the first casualty of war’), from misleading and false news broadcasts to propaganda leaflets dropped from planes. Now in the 21st century, wherever there is conflict there is cyberwar, and very probably, the Chinese army of cyberwarriors is the largest and most active force of its kind in the world.
(c) 2011 James Marinero