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[infowar.de] CIA: China plant Cyberangriffe auf USA und Taiwan
Laut einem geheimen Bericht der CIA plant die chinesische Regierung
großangelegte Cyberangriffe auf amerikanische und taiwanesische
Computernetzwerke, einschliesslich "Internet-linked military systems".
Gleichzeitig wird festgestellt, dass es China hierzu an den technischen
Mitteln mangelt. Wir wissen aber: die Chinesen beherrschen den Grossen
Sprung nach vorn ...
CIA Warns of Chinese Plans for Cyber-Attacks on U.S.
Defense: Analysts fear government and private efforts to sabotage
federal Internet sites.
By ERIC LICHTBLAU
Times Staff Writer
April 25 2002
WASHINGTON -- U.S. intelligence officials believe the Chinese military
is working to launch wide-scale cyber-attacks on American and Taiwanese
computer networks, including Internet-linked military systems considered
vulnerable to sabotage, according to a classified CIA report.
Moreover, U.S. authorities are bracing for a possible wave of hacking
attacks by Chinese students against the United States in coming weeks,
according to the analysis. The confidential alert, which was reviewed by
The Times, was sent to intelligence officials a week ago.
Although U.S. officials have voiced concerns about individual hackers in
China who have defaced federal and private Web sites, the United States
has resisted publicly linking the Chinese government to those attacks or
to broader cyber-style warfare.
The new CIA report, however, makes clear that U.S. intelligence analysts
have become increasingly concerned that authorities in Beijing are
actively planning to damage and disrupt U.S. computer systems through
the use of Internet hacking and computer viruses.
Although the assessment concludes that China has not yet acquired the
technical sophistication to do broad damage to U.S. and Taiwanese
systems, it maintains that this is the "intended goal" of the People's
Liberation Army in China. "The mission of Chinese special forces
includes physical sabotage" of vulnerable systems, the report
says--which some analysts said is driven by China's hostility toward
The Chinese Embassy in Washington insisted Wednesday, however, that
Beijing is only conducting computer research that is strictly defensive
"It is not the Chinese government's policy to disrupt the computer
system of any other country," said Larry Wu, an official in the
embassy's science and technology section.
"We do research on the security of computers, of course--self-defense to
understand how a hacker can get into our computer systems so we can
defend it," he said. "But China has never assumed an offensive stance
with regards to computer technology."
But several specialists in Chinese security and military affairs said
the CIA's conclusions jibe with their own observations about China's
research into offensive-minded cyber-tools.
"We should be very worried about this issue," said James Mulvenon, a
China analyst at the Rand Corp. think tank who has done extensive
studies into Chinese computer capabilities.
Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province, appears to be the
driving force behind the Chinese interest in hacking and viruses,
Mulvenon said. Under one scenario, if China were to make good on its
long-standing threat to invade Taiwan, the Chinese military could then
seek to deploy widespread computer disruptions against American and
Taiwanese military systems to slow any effort by U.S. forces to
intervene in Taiwan's defense, he said.
The issue threatens to inflame what are invariably tense relations
between the United States and the Communist regime in China, relations
already frayed by a volley of charges and counter charges during the
last several years over alleged nuclear, military and political
Relations hit a low point last year after a U.S. spy plane collided with
a Chinese jet fighter, triggering an international standoff over the
return of the plane's 24 Navy crewmen. China detained the crew members
for 11 days and returned the disassembled plane months later.
Recent months have seen a warming in relations as the Bush
administration secured China's cooperation in the war on terrorism. But
China has become upset by what it sees as the White House's increasingly
favorable overtures toward Taiwan.
The CIA's assessment discusses Taiwan and the United States, revealing
that U.S. intelligence officials believe both are targets of the Chinese
"The People's Liberation Army does not yet have the capability to carry
out its intended goal of disrupting Taiwanese military and civilian
infrastructures or U.S. military logistics using computer virus
attacks," said the CIA's report, which was included in a broader
national security assessment that authorities distributed to
"China's virus attack capabilities are similar to those of sophisticated
hackers and are limited to temporary disruption of sectors that use the
Internet," the CIA review said. "A Chinese virus attack is capable of
reaching e-mail communications, lap tops brought into China, and U.S.
Internet-based military computers."
A U.S. intelligence official who was briefed on the issue but asked not
to be identified said analysts believe that, although the most sensitive
U.S. military databases are secure from hackers and viruses,
Internet-based military systems that are used for communications with
bases around the world and with outside military vendors could be
"These aren't the keys to the kingdom we're talking about," the official
said. "There's no danger that the Chinese are going to hack into our
nuclear launch codes, but there is the danger they could gather useful
intelligence from penetrating some of the less sensitive networks that
the Department of Defense utilizes all over the world."
Recent U.S. intelligence indicates, the official said, "that the Chinese
government is actively and aggressively working on their cyber-war
capability. They have a lot of people and a lot of brainpower, and
they're smart enough to appreciate that a significant aspect of any
future armed conflict is going to be cyber in nature."
Another government official who asked not to be identified cautioned,
however, that the immediate threat posed by Chinese computer disruptions
is fairly limited.
"This is something we're certainly concerned about. But in terms of
their being able to disrupt Taiwan or U.S. military and civilian
infrastructure, they can't do it yet. That's the story."
The concept of nations launching cyber-attacks against their enemies is
a relatively new phenomenon, but it is drawing rising concern from U.S.
authorities as they assess vulnerability in the national computer
infrastructure. In an effort to beef up security, budget planners are
projecting an increase of more than 50% next year in overall computer
security, bringing the total to more than $4 billion.
The CIA report does not reveal how intelligence analysts arrived at
their conclusions, and Jonathan Pollack, chairman of the strategic
research department at the Naval War College, cautioned that there are
still many unanswered questions about China's plans.
"China is still an issue that worries Americans deeply, and sometimes
the intelligence community gets a head of steam on these things and can
go off on tangents that may not be substantiated," he said.
Last year, the spy plane confrontation triggered an avalanche of about
1,200 attacks against U.S. government and commercial Web sites that were
disrupted or defaced. Many of the attacks appeared to have been
generated by students in China, with private hackers leaving patriotic
pro-China messages or vowing revenge for the death of a Chinese pilot in
the plane collision. Several hundred attacks on Chinese Web sites were
blamed on American hackers, although some U.S. technology experts
discounted that explanation.
The CIA assessment said China's "nonstate hacking community continues to
pose the most immediate threat to U.S. computer networks."
It went on to warn that hackers in China "appear to be organizing for
cyber-attacks again this spring, particularly during student breaks
early next month and around the anniversary of the EP-3 [surveillance
The anniversary of the EP-3 collision passed uneventfully this month.
But private security groups say they too have picked up on possible
Chinese-based attacks in coming weeks--tied to the plane episode as well
as China's national youth day on May 4 and the May 8 anniversary of the
U.S.'s accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999.
"We're warning our people about it and making sure everyone has their
Web sites updated with the proper patches" to guard against
denial-of-service attacks and other hacking, said Michael Cheek,
director of intelligence for iDefense, a security intelligence service
that has government and corporate clients around the world.
The U.S. intelligence official said that analysts suspect last year's
hackings had the "tacit blessing," and even perhaps the active
involvement, of the Chinese government.
Indeed, a report due out next month from Mulvenon and the Rand Corp.,
which does research for the U.S. government, will allege that the
Chinese government was directly involved in at least one round of hack
After a spate of attacks against Web sites in the United States,
Australia, Canada and England maintained by the Falun Gong religious
movement--which China considers an "evil cult"--Mulvenon said his
investigation unearthed evidence showing that at least one U.S. attack
originated with the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.
"It's very clear to us that this was the ministry's doing, and it was a
deliberate attempt to smear Falun Gong," he said.
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