My latest for Al Jazeera English asks for more recognition of pluralism and ambiguity when governments and firms accuse “China” or the “Chinese government” of hacking. Check it out!
For fun, my first piece for Al Jazeera fought the notion of a “cyber cold war” between the United States and China. In 2011.
[Crossposted on gwbstr.com]
Following yesterday’s demonstrations against U.S. Congressional legislation that could severely constrict free speech and online innovation, I argue in Al Jazeera English that private interests in internet policy are here to stay.
It would have been the most expensive political ad buy in the history of the world. Google’s search engine, the most visited website in the world, displays a black block over its logo. Wikipedia, the sixth most visited site globally, has disabled its English-language service. This unprecedented action to oppose legislation under consideration in the US Congress signals the importance of the private sector in Internet policy – and it won’t stop here.
Private companies are almost entirely responsible for your ability to read this article. The text travelled through a purchased operating system, over an enterprise office network, through privately-owned wires and fibre optic cables, and finally reached the privately-run “cloud” service in which it was composed. If you’re overseas from Al Jazeera’s servers, the message also travelled through privately-owned undersea cables-the bedrock of international communication and finance.
Many experts, including Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard and the leaders of the MIT Media Lab, have described in detail the threat to free speech, innovation, and the technology business posed by the legislation: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate. Most people, however, learned of the controversy through today’s online demonstrations, in which the online goliaths of our day have filled the picket lines.
Read the rest at Al Jazeera English.
When anti-China rhetoric combines with computer security paranoia, we get outlandish statements and alarmism. In my first piece for Al Jazeera English, I argue that the idea of a “Cyber Cold War” is a hallucination:
In January 2010, a Google executive announced “a new approach to China” in a blog post, revealing that the firm had “detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack… originating from China” and that it would reconsider business operations there. In the ensuing two years, US rhetoric about China and cyber security has become ever more breathless.
“China is waging a quiet, mostly invisible but massive cyberwar against the United States,” wrote the Washington Post editorial board earlier this month. A Bloomberg News headline summed up concerns about attacks on corporate targets by conjuring an “undeclared cyber cold war.”
Computer systems in government and the private sector are indeed vulnerable to unauthorised access, as seen in the recent report of an allegedly China-based incursion at the US Chamber of Commerce. People who gain access can exfiltrate data, insert false information, or further tamper with systems for a variety of purposes. But the notion of a cyber cold war with China is inaccurate and irresponsible. [more]