Frosty relations between U.S. and China on cybersecurity

A Chinese man looks at a website in Beijing.

Change.org is a social activism website that hosted a petition related to Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, who has been imprisoned in China. Then Change.org got attacked and disabled, an attack the organization claims originated in China. This comes after Google pointed a finger at China related to hacks on its Gmail service.

For its part, the Chinese government denies all charges and says that its concerned about its own ability to defend its computer networks from attacks by hackers in the United States.

And all this comes at a time when the Obama administration is putting forth the position that cyber attacks leading to casualties or widespread destruction must be treated as acts of war.

The rhetoric is certainly heating up. But why now? And what will come next?

We talk to Adam Segal of the Council on Foreign Relations. He tells us that it is "Very likely the United States has penetrated many networks in China, both for espionage, and to prepare for conflict if there is one."

David Fidler is a law professor at Indiana University, he's also with the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research there. We ask him about what governs this type of activity in terms of the law. "From an international point of view," he says, "espionage isn't really regulated. The internet and these new cyber technologies allow espionage on scale and intensity that we have never seen before in world of espionage."

Fidler says that at the moment, this type of electronic espionage is rampant and the costs of both practicing it and defending against it are spiraling.

Also in this program, we learn a new technology vocabulary word: "spy flies." To get to those places a computer hacker just can't go, the military of the future might use tiny winged drone planes.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...