A few days ago, American cyber security firm Mandiant made public a report alleging that “the Chinese military was behind hacker attacks” against US websites. The Chinese Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry have repudiated the allegation as “groundless”. Such slanderous allegations repeatedly churned out by certain US firms and media are not only annoying but also laughable.
First, the allegation is laughable because it is technologically senseless. It is only too naïve to reach the conclusion that “the attacks originated from China” only by identifying the IP addresses. Anyone with a little cyber knowledge wouldn’t believe that a professional hacker would be so foolish as to use his/her own computer for hacking. No hacker would register his/her IP address at the place where they operate. And few would launch a massive attack to expose his or her “hideout”. They usually hijack a third-party computer and turn it into a “zombie” as part of a “botnet”, on which they then launch the planned attack. In its report, Mandiant claimed that a Shanghai-based army unit was the Chinese military’s “hacking headquarters”. The only reason it cited to support this claim was that the army unit used the term “headquarters” when registering for online address. This is ridiculous. Even an American cyber expert shrugged it off as pure “conjecture”.
Second, the allegation is laughable because it is nothing new but a hackneyed trick. Two years ago, some American cyber activists labeled a Lanxiang Technical School in Shandong Province as China’s “base camp of hackers” backed by the military and identified a company in Hengshui, Hebei Province and a college in Zhengzhou, Henan Province as “cyber militia units”. The assertions later turned out to be groundless. Now they played the old trick again. Analysts said, while the American cyber firms may have whipped up the fanfare for advertisement, the US government and military joined in only to scrounge more funding off the Congress to arm its cyber troops.
Thirdly, the allegation represents a peremptory attitude. The United States is the “rules maker” with an unchallengeable position in the cyber world. The US military set up the Cyber Warfare Command in 2010 and planned to enlarge the recruits for its cyber security force to 4,900. On the contrary, China sits at the lower end of the Internet chain and has been one of the worst-inflicted victims of cyber attacks. Available statistics indicate that 73,000 overseas IP addresses, working as Trojan and botnet controller servers, were involved in controlling 14 million computers in China last year. Another 32,000 overseas IP addresses exercised remote control over 38,000 Chinese websites by way of planting backdoors. Of these attacks, those from the US cyber sites were the largest in number. While China has suffered most from cyber attacks, the US proved to be the attacking side. Instead of restraining itself, the US threw the mud at China. This is really unfair and ungentlemanly.
Fourth, it is also an irresponsible attitude. Sino-US relationship is one of the most important bilateral relations in the contemporary world. A strategic trust between the two countries is of great significance to maintaining world peace and development. Chinese laws forbid hacking and any other actions that harm Internet security. The Chinese Government has imposed strict regulations on the use of Internet. Chinese army has never supported any act of cyber hacking. However, some American companies and media have fabricated and spread the lies about “threats from Chinese hackers” out of ulterior motives. This is not only an irresponsible attitude but will also undermine the relations between the two countries.
The slanderous report was released by a US company. The respondents from the Chinese side were government departments. The Americans have won enough face in the case. We shouldn’t have responded to it as such ridiculous and unprofessional accusations do not deserve a response at all. However, the allegation was so ill-intended and so irresponsible we have to present the facts to correct misunderstandings.
Meng Yan and Zhou Yong, are a deputy chief and a staff officer, respectively, of the International Publicity Bureau under the Ministry of National Defense of China.
The article was first published at People’s Daily’s Overseas Edition.