China's Cyberterror Threat to the U.S.

January 9, 2018


The threat of a catastrophic Chinese hack against the U.S. is much more imminent than most people realize.  There have been many documented cases of hacking in recent years, and each time the hacks have escalated. Late in 2017, this rising threat got so much attention that the US federal government even pressured telecom giant AT&T to pull out of a deal with Chinese manufacturer Huawei at the last minute, for fear that Huawei's devices would contain spyware or other security flaws that could make American consumers vulnerable. And the government's concerns may well have been justified: Over time, Chinese hacks have increasingly done more damage, hit more sensitive targets, and even risen in frequency.


In 2014, the Chinese government successfully hacked a U.S. military contractor, gaining confidential business information, as well as information on the U.S.’ nuclear computer systems.  A second hack at around the same time also stole intelligence that could be used for major economic espionage.  Only two months earlier, hacking had been a huge point of contention between the U.S. and China during a diplomatic conference between the two countries.


Shortly afterward, in 2015, a tremendous hack by the Chinese government stole the confidential information of over 22 million past and present federal government workers, some of whom had extremely sensitive top-secret clearance.  The hack also infiltrated victims’ email contacts, sending malware to victims’ friends and colleagues.  This hack had supposedly been ongoing since 2010, and it came to light only days after a major Russian hack had rocked the Pentagon.  Apparently the US government finally detected the Chinese hack when the affected agency updated its security measures, using newer tools to detect cyberthreats.  All told, the U.S. had counted over 600 hacks by the Chinese government over the last 5 years alone, and these are just the hacks that the government has detected.  Other noteworthy hacks include the monumental hack on Anthem insurance, which compromised the personal information of over 80 million Americans.


In the wake of the 2015 Lenovo Superfish Scandal, the U.S. government has even banned most Chinese-made laptops from being used by government workers, because these laptops have built-in backdoors and spyware that can steal any data from your computer at any time. So, despite the 600-plus known hacks, the number of unknown hacks could be far greater, with horrifying implications for personal and national security. Consequently, the U.S. government has remained wary of Chinese hacking even years later, culminating in the botched AT&T deal with China that was mentioned earlier.


Moreover, Chinese hacking has not just targeted the US government, but also the private sector. In 2010, a massive coordinated hack known as Operation Aurora targeted Google and other large companies like Adobe, Yahoo, Morgan Stanley, and Dow Chemical. The culprit was a hacker group in Beijing, China – with ties to the People’s Liberation Army – and the victims were faced with a series of repeated cyberattacks that ultimately led to a lift of all censorship by Google China.

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