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China's Red Star: Targeting Our Secrets


China’s enthusiasm for computerized mayhem isn’t restricted to the virtual. Earlier this week, a Russian IT security firm released a report naming “Red Star” as a China-based hacking crew suspected to have ties to official Beijing (though no links are proven yet). The group has taken advantage of faults in Microsoft Office software to spread NetTraveler, a program that steals data and information from infected computers. Among those targeted are Asian countries that are key players in our game of thrones. Foreign Policy breaks down the list of victims:

“Sixty percent of its targets are government embassies, militaries, and other government agencies. The rest are predominantly research institutions, manufacturing firms, and aerospace businesses. The victims are also predominantly located in Asia, with Mongolia topping that list as the host of 29 percent of victims, followed by Russia (19 percent) India (11 percent), Kazakhstan (11 percent) and Kyrgyzstan (5 percent).”

Last month we reported that American prosecutors were charging several Chinese nationals with stealing intellectual property from NYU and transferring it to China. We suggested that this case was probably only part of a larger and concerted Chinese effort along these lines. Today’s New York Times backs up our suggestion, citing a report by the U.S. IP Commission:

The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property concluded in May that technology theft amounted to a loss of more than $300 billion a year, the equivalent of total annual United States exports to Asia. “Virtually every sector and technology is attacked,” the commission said.

“National industrial policy goals in China encourage IP theft, and an extraordinary number of Chinese in business and government entities are engaged in this practice,” said the report by the commission, which was led by Dennis C. Blair, a former director of national intelligence, and Jon M. Huntsman Jr., a former ambassador to China.

IP theft, bribery, and hacking are all tactics China is increasingly using to help it remain competitive both militarily and economically. The US needs to be developing a strong response.

[Dragon image and cyber background courtesy of Shutterstock]

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