NSA: China is Destroying U.S. Economy Via Security Hacks
NSA director fingers China in recent RSA intrusion and subsequent data thefts, U.S. oblivious its at war
Well, no more hemming and hawing about, it’s official — the Chinese hacked EMC Corp. (EMC) subsidiary RSA and stole the secrets of its proprietary security algorithm according to the chief of the U.S. National Security Agency.
I. A Grave Threat
U.S. Cyber Command leader and NSA directorGen. Keith Alexander made the information public on Tuesday in a briefing to the Senate Armed Services Committee, in which he testified, “I can’t go into the specifics here, but we do see [thefts] from defense industrial base companies. There are some very public [attacks], though. The most recent one was the RSA exploits.”
China successfully used the information to hack into Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), a top U.S. defense contractor. It is thought that China’s remarkable progress in stealth fighter technology has been fueled by stolenU.S. Department of Defense Secrets.
Indeed a massive amount of intellectual property is being stolen from both the public and private sector by Chinese hackers, according to Gen. Alexander. The U.S. has done precious little to protect its own economic prosperity, as it has been overwhelmed by the Chinese thieves. One official in past commentary graphically described a cyberwarfare compaign of an unnamed nation state (suspected to be China) as “raping” the world.
Whether the Chinese government is perpetrating these attacks first hand, sponsoring third parties to conduct them, or merely condoning corporate interests to conduct them is almost as hazy as the sketchy financial ties the Chinese government holds to many of its private sector business (to be fair such allegations have increasingly been raised about the U.S. gov’t).
But at the end of the day, the result is the same — the destruction of the U.S. economy at the hands of the Chinese attackers.
U.S. companies who speak out against the attacks are threatened by the Chinese. The Chinese government is more than willing to ban U.S. firms that rock the boat, locking them out of the lucrative emerging market of almost 1 billion internet-active device users.
Complains Gen. Alexander, “We need to make it more difficult for the Chinese to do what they’re doing. Intellectual property isn’t well protected, and we can do a better job at protecting it.”
The security official shared interesting details of the attack. He says the RSA hack used a zero-day (unreleased) exploit of Adobe System Inc.’s (ADBE) Flash player (somewhere thespirit of Steve Jobs is smirking) and used “spearphishing” (targeted phishing) to get an RSA employee to click on the offending executable, resulting on backdoors being installed on the company’s servers. Ironically, the Subcommittee hearings were livecast using Flash.
II. Are the NSA’s Cyber Command Efforts Really Helping?
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) criticized Gen. Alexander’s commentary as just lip service. He pointed out that a DOD pilot program to share malware signatures with defense contractors did not contribute significantly to new awareness, according to a Carnegie Mellon University study.
Gen. Alexander responded, “Industry has a bunch of signatures, government has those too. All of us need to work together to provide the best set of signatures.”
He then countered that private sector communications efforts have been hindered by red tape. He compares the situation to a bank robbery in which no one can tell the police. He points to one incident in which the NSA detected 3 GB of data being stolen, stating, “I think that industry should have the ability to see these attacks and share them with us in real time. It’s like neighborhood watch. Somebody is breaking into a bank, and somebody needs to be in touch with the police to stop it.”
Is the U.S. surrendering its future by allowing China to victimize its businesses and defenses with no response? The hacks may go down in U.S. history as the nation’s first unofficial surrender. [Image Source: Allison Nazarian]
On the upside Gen. Alexander says DOD efforts to establish a Cyber Command outpost at every major geographical and functional Combatant Command branch are coming along nicely. He points to a major recent combat exercise at Nellis Air Force base as a sign of that progress.
Tensions between the U.S. and China are running high after the U.S. filed a World Trade Organization complaint against China for cutting off its supply of rare earth metals. China argued the complaint was unfair and that it’s all about playing by the rules.
Source: U.S. Senate