FrrfrfNo. 2106 February 8, 2008
Trojan Dragon: China’s Cyber Threat
John J. Tkacik, Jr.
America’s counterintelligence czar, Dr. Joel F. Brenner, painted an alarming picture of economic espionage in 2006, albeit in the objective tones and neutral parlance of the intelligence community. He reported to Congress that “foreign collection efforts have hurt the United States in several ways”: • Foreign technology collection efforts have “eroded the US military advantage by enabling foreign militaries to acquire sophisticated capabilities that might otherwise have taken years to develop.” • “[M]assive” industrial espionage has “undercut the US economy by making it possible for foreign firms to gain a competitive economic edge over US companies.” Dr. Brenner characterizes China as “very aggressive” in acquiring U.S. advanced technology. “The technology bleed to China, among others, is a very serious problem,” he said in March 2007, noting that “you can now, from the comfort of your own home or office, exfiltrate information electronically from somebody else’s computer around the world without the expense and risk of trying to grow a spy.” On November 15, 2007, the bipartisan, congressionally chartered U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) put a finer point on it: “Chinese espionage activities in the United States are so extensive that they comprise the single greatest risk to the security of American technolo-
gies.” Cyberpenetration is by far China’s most effective espionage tool, and it is one that China’s spy agencies use against America’s allies almost as much as against U.S. targets. Targeting America. The U.S. military has been the primary target of Chinese cyberattacks, followed closely by the Departments of State, Commerce, and Homeland Security. Academic, industrial, defense, and financial databases are also vulnerable. Regrettably, American officials tend to be very sensitive to China’s feelings and refrain from public allegations that the...