The cyber-security cat is slowly slinking out of the bag, it seems. It’s been a big month in cybersecurity news, ranging from some high-profile hacks at companies like Lockheed (home to sensitive American defense technologies) and a declaration from the Pentagon that cyber attacks perpetrated by foreign governments can be considered acts of war and dealt with accordingly. Now we’re hearing more war metaphors and cautionary talk from Richard Clarke in this morning’s Wall Street Journal, where he argues that China-backed hackers are systematically attacking America and meeting no resistance when they do so.
Clarke worked in various high-level security roles for every president from Reagan to G.W. Bush, leaving the White House in 2003 with the title Special Advisor to the President on cybersecurity. That is, he’s got some background on the topic at hand. And his assessment is pretty bleak: Senior U.S. officials know–and have known–that Chinese hackers are systematically infiltrating our networks, stealing source code, valuable R&D, and trade secrets from corporations while probing our power grids and other critical infrastructure for weaknesses, leaving behind easy access for themselves should they ever need to return and carry out more malicious acts.
Google, he says, has had the stones to stand up and admit it when its networks have been breached. But other companies, usually out of fear of being labeled “not secure,” haven’t done so. The recent RSA Security breach says it all; Chinese hackers–with government support–are walking all over us digitally, and the U.S. government is doing little to protect jeopardized American interests that aren’t on a .gov or .mil server.
How do we know the Chinese government is behind these hacks? The Chinese claim attacks originating on their soil are rogue hackers, not government-backed cyber warriors. But, Clarke says, cyber criminals breach companies for financial gain, swiping credit cards or otherwise making away with funds. There’s no money in hacking the U.S. electrical grid, yet President Obama himself has admitted that the grid has been thoroughly probed by hackers. Says Clarke:
“What would we do if we discovered that Chinese explosives had been laid throughout our national electrical system? The public would demand a government response. If, however, the explosive is a digital bomb that could do even more damage, our response is apparently muted—especially from our government.”
Tough words from a former cybersecurity czar. The op-ed is worth a read if you’re staying current on cyber threats and the larger geopolitical situation. Click through below for the whole story.