State and Commerce Depts. Declare War on Chinese Malware, Malgear

August 20, 2020 Updated: August 23, 2020

Commentary

This past week, the U.S. State Department and U.S. Department of Commerce launched new diplomatic, economic, and legal initiatives designed to counter communist China’s global malware and malgear offensive.

Right—a malgear offensive.

Everyone with a smartphone understands malware, the cybersecurity portmanteau for “malicious software.” Invading malware code can sabotage, spy upon, seize control of, or even destroy a digital information device.

Malgear is my portmanteau for malicious digital equipment, malicious gear (hardware) that has the built-in ability to surveil, sabotage, and destroy when its manufacturer gives the command.

Which takes us back to the State and Commerce departments’ recent initiatives that expand the Clean Network program announced in April. Clean Network is a comprehensive attempt to protect the privacy and information of American citizens and corporations “from aggressive intrusions by malign actors.”

One component of Clean Network is Clean Store, an initiative designed to “remove untrusted applications from U.S. mobile app stores.”

TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, is a video-sharing application many teenagers use. Spies can use the app as a perfectly camouflaged data collector to build data files on future adults and identify people the Chinese Communist Party might one day influence. For example, racy teenage imagery could leave an embarrassed 30-year-old working at the CIA open to blackmail.

Outrageous? The Commerce Department didn’t think so when it told ByteDance that TikTok will be banned in six weeks if it isn’t sold to an American corporation. Divest it and Americans will remove the vulnerabilities. Don’t divest and the product’s banned. Commerce is waging economic and investment warfare.

Huawei’s 5G “next generation” wireless communication systems are designed to connect cellphones, the internet, the internet of things—essentially, all things digital. Huawei has tried to position itself as the world’s biggest supplier of telecommunications equipment, with the goal of dominating global and regional communications infrastructure and international digital systems.

Huawei’s equipment works well enough, but the Justice Department contends Huawei telecommunications systems and its business operations mask a sinister purpose: They aid and, in fact, participate in Beijing’s global espionage efforts.

Huawei employees have admitted that the company’s hardware can intercept communications both in mainland China and globally. The U.S. government has confirmed Huawei databases hold information on foreign personnel, phone records, and personal property that has nothing to do with Huawei’s business.

In February 2020, the DOJ called Huawei a security risk and then indicted the company for “racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to steal trade secrets”—industrial espionage.

On Aug. 17, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described Huawei as “an arm of the CCP’s surveillance state” and announced ever-harsher economic and diplomatic measures to “protect U.S. national security, our citizens’ privacy and the integrity of our 5G infrastructure from Beijing’s malign influence.”

Pompeo praised the Commerce Department’s new initiatives to “prevent Huawei from circumventing U.S. law through alternative chip production and provision of off-the-shelf chips produced with tools acquired from the United States.” The United States wants Huawei customers to “shift to other sources of equipment, software, and technology” and end their reliance on Huawei.

Huawei malgear does more than spy. An intercontinental ballistic missile can launch a communications satellite—a civilian function—or carry an armed warhead to a target—a military mission.

During the Cold War, “dual-use” indicated a weapon system could deliver conventional or nuclear weapons. Think of Huawei’s equipment as dual-use malgear. Huawei systems are a Trojan horse that Beijing can use to launch an intercontinental digital attack. Remember, a 5G system can connect the “internet of things,” handy things like an automatic garage door or a remote temperature control. But it can also connect things like the “supervisory control and data acquisition” (SCADA) systems controlling a nuclear power plant or a dam’s floodgates.

What if a saboteur were to open the floodgates and deluge an American city? If the saboteur were a Chinese intelligence operative, would this be an act of kinetic war?

Better to deploy a “clean network” and deny Beijing the option.

Austin Bay is a colonel (ret.) in the U.S. Army Reserve, author, syndicated columnist, and a teacher in strategy and strategic theory at the University of Texas. His latest book is “Cocktails from Hell: Five Wars Shaping the 21st Century.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.