China’s Government Attacks the U.S., Using Computers Not Missiles

A column by Richard Clarke in the WSJ posed a challenging question: What would the US do if the Chinese government planted explosives along our electricity grid? Most of us would be alarmed, and we would expect that a military response would be the next step. Wouldn’t we?

Today, the Chinese government routinely attacks the US by using computers to hack into emails…they even penetrated the Gmail accounts of many top level government officials, and yet, nothing has been done. It’s a complex and dangerous situation, and the Chinese leaders always throw it back at the accusers, claiming it’s random Chinese citizen hackers, not the government, that’s behind the attacks.

But three years ago, British Security Services sent letters to hundreds of corporate CEOs in their country declaring that their computer systems had been hacked by the Chinese government. Only Google has had the nerve to actually call the Chinese out on this, and the fact that senior US officials were the targets shows that it’s not a random hacker, it’s a targeted attack by the Chinese government. Hackers don’t pick on diplomats and cabinet secretaries.

A recent attack targeted electrical grids…the intention is to weaken our electricity-dependent economy since they can’t equal our military might. Another thing that garden variety hackers wouldn’t do.

One sign that the US is taking this more seriously finally is that our military has declared that an attack on our computers is the same as an attack on our shores with missiles. I am not sure exactly that means in terms of what we are planning as a revenge, but taking the problem seriously is the first step toward making the Chinese stop.