National Security Adviser Urges China to Step Up & Stop Hackers

By Steve Anderson March 12, 2013

When most people think of the Internet and China, they think of incredibly tight bans and limitations on accessible content. But a growing concern about China and the Internet was reflected recently with remarks from the President's national security adviser, Tom Donilon. Donilon gave a speech in New York yesterday in which he advised the Chinese government to better restrain its hacker population, which was reportedly busy breaking into United States computer systems and getting its hands on business secrets in the process.

Donilon's remarks are said to represent the most direct response to the increased amount of hacking and so-called "cyber spying" in which the Chinese have reportedly been engaging. While Donilon's remarks did not specifically accuse the Chinese government of launching the attacks, Donilon did note that the attacks were coming from within the country of China itself.

More specifically, Donilon said: "Increasingly, U.S. businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber intrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale."

But Donilon didn't just come to point fingers, instead suggesting that the Chinese government do three specific things in order to address the problem. One, China needs to, as previous word from U.S. officials has said, come to a realization of the "urgency and scope" of the problem. Two, China then needs to take "serious steps" as regards the larger hacking problem. Three, Donilon further suggested that the Chinese government start creating a set of rules for operating in cyberspace, possibly by engaging in a dialogue to do so.

While China has denied responsibility for the attacks, a report from the security firm Mandiant illustrated that there may be a much bigger problem than expected. The Mandiant report detailed the existence of People's Liberation Army Unit 61398, said to be a unit of elite hackers that has been continuously attempting, since at least 2006, to break into U.S. companies and government agencies. Based out of Shanghai, the hackers have taken data from, reportedly, 141 companies across 20 different industries, and at least 115 of those companies were in the United States.

Meanwhile, the White House is already working on a program geared toward fighting the hackers no matter where they emerge, using a set of what are called "trade policy tools" to not only encourage countries to fight hackers, but also to enforce laws related to intellectual property.

It would not be surprising to see hacking used as a weapon. The ability to not only gain access to key information, but also gain access to systems controlled by computers--the power grid, traffic systems, emergency management methods and plenty more--would likely prove to be the kind of tactics that would prove useful for just about anyone.

Of course, the Chinese government is still denying responsibility for the attacks, but the Mandiant report does cast a bit of doubt on that denial. The true story here is still largely unknown outside of the walls of government at the highest levels, but it's shaping up to be something potentially very big.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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