As tension between the United States, Russia and China continues to escalate, reports of cyber warfare between the nations has become increasingly prominent. Modern warfare can be waged in numerous ways, and it seems that this virtual form of conflict will be an increasing theme as the 21st century develops.
The perception of which of the countries is most likely to be in the wrong certainly differs greatly depending on your geographical location. Naturally, in the United States it is frequently reported that both China and Russia pose a significant threat to American security. But reporting in the two Eastern nations can be significantly different, and fairly recently Russian publications suggested that indeed the United States had already unleashed a form of cyber warfare against both Russia and China.
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US cyber attacks in Russia
But this assertion was not entirely baseless, according to the sources that have been acquired to support it. The former White House official, Dr. Philippa Malmgren, a former presidential adviser and member of the US President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, supported this notion when quoted by the Russian publication Pravda.
Malmgren suggested that she had been present at a meeting with senior individuals from the defense community, and that there is already a consensus of opinion that a major confrontation with China and Russia is already taking place. The difference to warfare of the past is that this is being conducted surreptitiously through cyberspace, rather than through traditional and conventional forms of weaponry.
With the United States looking to deploy cyber warfare against targets such as the Iranian nuclear program, it has also been acknowledged by Scott Borg, CEO of the US Cyber Consequences Unit, that this is a valid tactic for the United States in the future. Cyber attacks could already have been launched against Russia and China, and concerns about the conduct of the United States has been expressed by such critics of US foreign policy as Ron Paul and Paul Craig Roberts.
However, one certainly shouldn’t labour under the misapprehension that this is a one-way street. Both Russia and China have already been accused of similar cyber attacks, as the heated rhetoric between the Anglo-American old world order and this new coupling of power located in the Eastern region ramps up.
Russia cyber attacks on the Unites States
It is already suspected that Russian hackers were able to penetrate a Pentagon e-mail system that is commonly used by employees of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. US military officials have indeed stated this accusation publicly, and the latest cyber attack from Russia follows a larger series of infiltrations into sensitive US government computer networks. Many of these attacks have been penetrated by both Russian and Chinese hackers, as the issue of computing privacy and cyber warfare becomes an increasingly prominent hot potato.
US military officials stated that Russian hackers in particular targeted computers related to the unclassified Pentagon e-mail system. This cyber attack emanated just last month, and reportedly affected in the region of 4,000 military and civilian personnel, many of which are involved in the coordination and operation of US Armed Forces overseas.
This is not the first time that a particularly prominent computer system in the United States was laid bare by Russian hackers. Back in the fall of 2014, a similar cyber attack penetrated unclassified e-mail systems at both the White House and State Department. It is suggested that as a result of this particular cyber attack that it was possible for individuals to read the unclassified e-mail of the United States President Barack Obama. When United States officials investigate the origin of this particular hacking incident, it apparently led back to the Russian government.
China cyber attacks on the United States
And China has also been involved in similar cyber attacks. It has been reported previously that a group of hackers linked with the East Asian economic powerhouse managed to penetrate the databases of numerous American health insurers. This sort of attack is common among the so-called ‘black hat’ community, and is often carried out by rogue individuals with the intention of achieving monetary gain. This can be hugely successful, with some black hat individuals claiming to acquire income in excess of $1 million per year.
But it can also be carried out by state-backed entities, and in this case it is suspected that the Chinese government may have been involved in this cyber attack. Chinese hackers have been linked with stealing personal records of the United States military and intelligence agencies, striking the very heart of the US air-traffic system, along with several other unsolicited cyber attacks.
Sabre Corp., which processes reservations for hundreds of airlines and thousands of hotels, confirmed that its systems have been breached by hackers, while the U.S. government’s personnel office was also targeted. And according to the intelligence community, the source of this hacking was linked to the hugely powerful entity that is the Chinese government.
Security experts assert that Chinese hackers are in fact able to carry out such attacks in large numbers. One particular expert described the Chinese as the “bullies of cyberspace”, with state actors tasked with gathering intelligence on other nations covertly on a regular basis. This has been emphatically denied by the Chinese authorities, as well as Chinese embassy spokespersons in the United States. But it is clear that each of the three major world superpowers is ramping up its attempts to attack one another in cyberspace.
The cyber warfare between the United States, Russia and China is part of an overall epoch-defining conflict between the three nations. This is largely based on economic disagreement and rivalry, but has also spilled over into military and territorial disputes as well. Although this war has remained physically peaceful thus far, the potential for future conflict between the three nations remains significant. And with the likes of Edward Snowden revealing the extent of government snooping, we can expect more reports of governmental cyber attacks in the future.