Why is it that everyone who is an ‘expert’ on China thinks they have some mystical abilities on the computer? There was an interview with an author on the blog Human Events Online that caught my attention this morning. I’ve seen this type of author before, and I’m rapidly becoming familiar with the type: they are convinced that there’s an upcoming war with China, and that they have all these awesome abilities to take us out and we’re not gonna see it coming.
Read the excerpt:
In Showdown, you raise the possibility of the Chinese’ waging cyberwar against the U.S., and Japan. What’s exactly would that mean?
China—as we illustrate in the last fictional scenario in Showdown—is rapidly building the most advanced offensive computer war capability in the world. If they decided to use it, they could—unless we counter it with our own massive buildup of defensive and offensive cyberwar capability—conquer America without firing a shot. They could do everything from disabling satellite networks to taking down the stock market and banking networks. America could be reduced to a 1940s existence in a matter of minutes. I don’t believe they have the ability to do this yet, but they will very soon.
[via Human Events Online]
See, I used to sortof be in the camp that thought that China might be a threat. The problem is that every time I read something said by these authors, they always talk about “CyberWar” like it’s something that could actually happen. CyberWar is somewhat tricky and deceptive term for online warfare. One imagines a keyboard of big red buttons that you can push to take out servers and transfer rich people’s money into other bank accounts. That simply is not the case, although it makes for rich, imaginative storylines that I’m sure everyone in Hollywood loves (ahem… Swordfish).
Smite buttons aside, CyberWar is a nuanced and very situational thing. Take for instance the real cyberwar taking place right now between spammers and anti-spammers. This week, the warm-conflict between the two groups escelated to what could actually be called a war. It’s been an ebb and flow back and forth between the seedy underbelly of the net where the spammers will develop new techniques to defeat filtering techniques, and the anti-spammers will develop better techniques.
Last week, as many of you probably read, anti-spam company Blue Security shut its doors in response to escalated targeted attacks by spammers at the company.
If you happened to have been away from the internet for the first week of May, you missed the story about how a spammer figured out Blue Security’s “opt-out” list by seeing who it clear out of his own list, and then proceeded to bombard them with even more spam. Immediately after this, a fairly massive denial of service attack was directed at Blue Security’s servers, which ended up taking out many other sites, including major blog provider Six Apart (which hosted a Blue Security blog). The decision to shut the company down appears to have been based on threats that another such attack was pending — and Blue Security’s belief that it wasn’t fair to take out other sites again. As skeptical as we were over Blue Security’s original model, and the risks it entailed, this still seems like bad news. It certainly will embolden spam attackers to hit hard at anyone who takes them on. In the end, perhaps that was the worst legacy of Blue Security’s system: it simply escalated the war with spammers to new, unfortunate, levels.
The fact is that the internet is driven by commerce. Us old early adopters may not always like that, but it’s the fact of life. CyberWars like this tend to be driven by monetary interests. China has no vested economic interest in taking down our information infrastructure. Not only would it seriously inhibit their economic interaction with the United States, it’s also likely to be just as damaging to the rest of the world, as most of the world either does a large amount of business with us, or relies on American technology to survive. I’m a simple blogger in the boonies of East Texas and I see that, I can’t imagine that there are cyber-Hawks in the Chinese military who don’t.