Monday, December 26, 2011

U.S. Headed For Cyberwar Showdown With China In 2012

The new year is likely to bring a distinct shift in U.S. national security priorities, as the Obama Administration and Congress sharpen their response to China’s continuous assault on U.S. information networks.  Although intelligence-community analysts believe the most sophisticated intrusions are being executed by a relatively small number of agents linked to the general staff of China’s Peoples Liberation Army, the damage they are inflicting on U.S. security and economic competitiveness is judged to be extensive.

Thus far, China’s cyber campaign consists mainly of espionage aimed at stealing military secrets and intellectual property.  However, Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the Pentagon’s joint Cyber Command established to counter such campaigns, said in November that, “We see a disturbing track from exploitation to disruption to destruction.”  Alexander wasn’t talking just about the Chinese, but there’s little doubt among intelligence analysts that Beijing is the biggest and most persistent perpetrator of cyber crimes.
The question is what to do about it.  To date, U.S. cyber efforts have been focused mainly on defensive measures, seeking to repel network intruders in a fashion that Alexander likens to the famously failed Maginot Line.  The National Security Agency and other U.S. security organizations are known to have developed their own network-attack capabilities, but former White House cyber-security advisor Richard Clarke has warned that it would be dangerous for the U.S. to step up its own campaign against Chinese networks while U.S. safeguards against retaliation are so weak.

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