A federal investigation was launched recently when the computer systems of both candidates Barack Obama and John McCain were found to have been compromised by hackers inside China.
The report on the attacks was originally released by Newsweek, which said that Obama’s campaign team was approached by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Secret Service, who told them, “You have a problem way bigger than you understand,” said the report. “You have been compromised, and a serious amount of files have been loaded off your system.”
A similar report was released by the Financial Times on Nov. 6, which said that U.S. defense companies have had attacks on their systems, warning that the attacks could be attempts to learn about future weapon systems. A senior U.S. official also told the Financial Times that Chinese hackers have infiltrated the computers of the White House on numerous occasions, extracting information such as e-mails between government officials.
Dr. Li, from the Internet Freedom Consortium told The Epoch Times that the U.S. government is still “naïve,” in many ways.
“What the Chinese are most interested in is how the election goes,” said Li, who requested that his first name not be published. “In their mentality they want to control the outcome of the election. From processing the information they can see what they can do for the next election.”
The Internet Freedom Consortium is the largest anti-censorship operation in the world and focuses on dismantling government firewalls in oppressed countries such as China and Iran. A grassroots operation, they have been fighting an invisible information war with China for years, focusing on creating ways for people living there to break through the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) internet censorship and information blockades.
Dr. Li warned that the risk of Chinese hackers stretches from simple independent hackers trying to make a name for themselves, right up to the Chinese military.
In 2007, a cyber war broke out when the People’s Liberation Army launched a massive internet attack on the U.S. Pentagon. The U.S. lost, and an unknown amount of information was taken. The Pentagon was forced to shut down its network for over a week. On Sept. 3, the Financial Times reported that, “Hackers from numerous locations in China spent several months probing the Pentagon system before overcoming its defenses.”
According to Dr. Li, “The future war is not on the fields but on the computers.”
Addressing the attacks, Dr. Li pointed to reports from the Chinese army, saying that they are training an army of computer hackers. “There have been not only reports but also directions. The [CCP’s] army general gave speeches on it,” said Li.
“Their opinion is that the war of the future will not rely on conventional weapons but on information and computers. They have a hacking army. There have been reports on that,” said Li.
“In the [CCP’s] army they say the most effective way in a war is to black out a city, black it out. Like in New York or Washington D.C.” said Li. “They don’t need an atomic bomb. They say that they can hack into the city and the city will fall into riots and chaos.”
Dr. Li warned that the U.S. government should make internet security on public services a higher priority. “If they can get into the Pentagon computer, they can get into anything publicly controlled. It’s one of the strategies of their army,” said Li. “The U.S. should look closely at the electricity systems. The impact would be tremendous.”
There have been speculations and doubts of whether the recent hacking of government files is being orchestrated by the CCP. Li pointed out that in China, the entire internet is carefully monitored by the communist regime and that it would be nearly impossible for operations on such scales to go unnoticed.
“A normal underground group doesn’t have that capability,” said Li. “In China if they form a group it’s very easy for the CCP to shut them down. At the very least, the Chinese regime is supporting these activities.”
In addition to the Chinese military, another issue has been of independent hackers stirring trouble. According to Li, the individuals, who refer to themselves as “Red Hackers,” perceive their actions as being patriotic. Giving reference to the celebrations throughout China and Iran when the terrorist attacks had occurred on September 11, Li said, “In general they have lots of propaganda. They would always say the U.S. is against China. The U.S. is what they call imperialistic.”
Li said that this mentality has been instilled through years of government propaganda. “The U.S. thinks the Chinese communists are the same as they are, yet, [China] has no free media. They only have the CCP-controlled information as their media,” said Li.
As an example, Li mentioned that in the U.S. Google.com is basically neutral, but in China it had to censor its information in order to be allowed there. “The root of all these problems is lack of information freedom. Because of this, the people there, especially the young generations, lack the information to judge what’s right or wrong,” said Li. “They are brainwashed by the communists.”
“They are not necessarily looking for information. Their thought is that if they can hack a U.S. computer, they are regarded as a hero in China. The young people in China will praise such a person and the CCP will also praise them,” said Li. “They don’t think normally like people in the U.S. do. They don’t think normally like people in the free world think.”
Li said that there is a false understanding in the West that if they help the CCP improve its economy and technology, it will improve its human rights. One example he gave was that before China was granted the rights to hold the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, they had agreed to improve their human rights, yet leading up to the Olympics, human rights in China worsened. “Unfortunately the U.S. companies and U.S. government are kind of naive of what’s going on. They always say that China will improve if they help with its economy and technology, but it didn’t work.”
“Some people have given China very good technology but they have only helped the CCP censor information. They have turned it into a superpower,” said Li. “They helped the CCP build its technology and economy, but the people there are still not free. The technology has become something that has helped it suppress its people.”
“The U.S. government and the American people are just being utilized by China,” said Li. “If they think [the Chinese communist officials] are as much of gentlemen as they are, they are very naive.”