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The New York Times Attacked by Chinese Hackers, or Was It?

Feb 07 , 2013

The following is an unofficial translation of a commentary article that was featured on the front page of the People’s Daily, China’s official state-run newspaper. 

Another US institution recently claimed it was “attacked by Chinese hackers.” This time the self-proclaimed “victim” is The New York Times.

There have been quite a few US “victims” in recent years who accused “Chinese hackers” of targeting their computer networks, including Google, arms manufacturers, the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Aviation and Space Administration and so on. The US-China Economic and Security Assessment Committee of Congress went so far as to say in its annual report, published in November, that China had become the most aggressive country in the cyber world.

However, for all this hyping of “Chinese hacker attacks” the US has yet to produce any damning evidence to support the wild accusations. The evidence that The New York Times and others such as Dow Jones cited for their accusation is the same as  previous allegations – the attacks were traced back to IP addresses located in China.

Anyone with a fair amount of Internet know-how can tell you that hacker attacks are usually launched via a string of overseas addresses and under various disguises to hide the identity and location(s) of the attacker(s). The US, which has always been on the cutting edge of Internet technology, must know this better than anyone else.

By repeatedly accusing China of hacker attacks without solid evidence the US is in fact spreading the “China threat theory” in the cyber world as another excuse for efforts to contain China. National security is now the ultimate one-size-fits-all loin cloth for Washington to take any arbitrary action it wants to against another country, be it trade protectionism or economic sanction. It is also the ultimate excuse to sound the “China threat” alarm.

Some US media entities and politicians are allergic to China’s progress in economic development as well as science and technology and the more they see it the more anxious they feel. So much so they habitually accuse China of “stealing” or “copying” (US technology/inventions) and a whole lot of “conspiracies”. Besides, hyping “Chinese hacker attacks” is obviously a handy way to attract voter support as well as public attention for US politicians nowadays, not to mention the bonus of having one more reason to install more tech export bans against China.

Fact is, while hyping its “China threat in cyber world” claim, the US is quickening the pace of expanding its cyber security force. Just a few days before The New York Times and Dow Jones accused China of hacker attacks a press report said that Pentagon plans to expand the cyber security force five-fold. Coincidence or a well-executed attack formation, it is enough to let some observers wonder what else can it be except an excuse to redouble funding for cyber warfare capability buildup.

The US sees itself as the guardian of online freedom, but it is also the leader in using the Internet as a convenient channel for efforts to interfere in other sovereign countries’ internal affairs and even subvert their governments. To this end it is stepping up a campaign to militarize the Internet and turn it into a warzone whenever it wants to. Little wonder the US military, certain high-tech companies and politicians have been crying wolf so hard in recent years about the so-called China threat in cyber world.

On the Internet business spies and cyber thieves are everywhere. Any wired government department or enterprise can be targeted by hackers for any or no reason at all. Available statistics show China is one of countries most frequently attacked by foreign hackers. In December last year alone at least 3,049 IP addresses took control remotely of 11,295 websites based in China by installing backdoor programs in those systems and the remote attack sources located in the US outnumbered any other country. Despite the fact that so many hacker attacks were traced back to IP addresses located in US networks the Chinese side did not publicly accuse any American entity of launching cyber assault on Chinese sites.

With the largest online population in the world China forbids by law any attempt at network hacking and punish the culprits quite severely while taking a constructive part in global exchanges and cooperation on network security. In the era of economic globalization and informationization, information security has become an international issue and counter-attack against hackers depends on international cooperation to succeed. Hurling unsubstantiated accusations at China while exercising double-standard on Internet management sets a glaring example for irresponsible behavior by any country, superpower or not.

This is translated from a commentary published in the overseas edition of People’s Daily on February 4.

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