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CIA conducts cyber-espionage on China for 11 years

By Lucas Leiroz | March 6, 2020

The Chinese cybersecurity company Qihoo 360 published a note stating that the CIA has been conducting cyber espionage in strategic sectors of China for 11 years. The allegations come from a survey conducted by the company based on the “Vault7” series of documents, published by WikiLeaks, detailing a wide range of activities conducted by the CIA in electronic surveillance and cyber warfare.

On its website, the Chinese company claims that Chinese industrial sectors are being spied on by a criminal group of hackers called APT-C-39, which is known to belong to the CIA. Among the areas victimized by illegal CIA surveillance are aviation, scientific research, oil industry, internet companies and government agencies. The attacks were traced back to 2008. The regions most affected by espionage are Beijing, Guangdong, Zhejiang.

In the survey, cyber weapons found to be used exclusively by the CIA, such as Fluxwire and Grasshopper, were detected, leading to the possibility of a hacking organization at state level. The survey was also able to locate the working hours of the spies, which, interestingly, coincides with the American workday.

In the company’s website we can read: “Qihoo 360 data have shown that the cyber-weapons used by the organization and the cyber weapons described in the CIA Vault 7 project are almost identical. The CIA Vault 7 weapons show from the side that the United States has built the world’s largest cyber weapons arsenal. It has not only brought serious threat to the global network security, but also demonstrate the APT organization’s high technical capabilities and professional standards (…) In addition, considering the uniqueness and time span of the use of the APT-C-39 cyber weapon, Qihoo 360 gave the conclusion that the group’s attack was initiated by the state-level hacking organization”.

However, the results achieved by the research are even more accurate. The Chinese company managed to track down the person individually responsible for using these cyber weapons, an American hacker named Joshua Adam Schulte. The data suggest that Joshua created, developed and applied these cybernetic weapons. At the time of the attacks, Joshua was a member of the National Clandestine Service (NCS) – a unit that belongs to the CIA – working on the Science and Technology Directorate. (DS&T); today, he is serving time for espionage in the USA. The hacker’s active participation in American cyber war projects poses him as a significant threat with international dimensions, in addition to raising questions about the true nature of his arrest.

The reflections we can draw from reading this news are very interesting. Cyber space was recognized a few years ago as a battleground for modern warfare – as important or more than land, sea and air; in this intangible zone, entire nations face each other through attacks, espionage and constant surveillance, using true hidden armies, unknown to the general public, and very powerful weapons, which are capable of causing real problems in the material world. The most curious thing is that all of this takes place in a lawless area, where absolutely everything is allowed, without any legal or moral boundaries.

Countries such as China, Russia and North Korea have long been criticized in the West for undertaking projects to create and develop “intranets”, that is, national computer networks, unplugged from the world network. In the West, false experts claim that such projects have a “dictatorial” content, being a form of censorship. However, cases like this remind us of the importance of such projects and the need for legal status for the cyber world.

If the cyber world is a war zone, international law must provide basic rules so that the coexistence between nations in this new battlefield takes place in a peaceful, simple and ethical way, with mutual respect between the belligerents. The absence of such legal delimitations legitimizes that absolutely any act of war or espionage involving the cyber world is carried out – mainly by the prevailing hegemonic power. However, such absence of mechanisms in the international sphere also justifies the establishment of intranets and unplugged networks, since, in the absence of a relevant international treaty, the merit remains for the decision of local governments, according to their interests.

The United States is seeking to assert itself as a global cyber police; it wants to assert in the virtual world the same hegemony that they have at sea. To this end, they undertake spy, attack and information theft projects, institutionalizing criminal hacking networks as secret units of this hidden war. China is certainly not the only target. The discovery of hacker invasion in the networks of the main industrial sectors in this country is just a sign of something much bigger and deeper. Not only great military and economic potencies have their internal information stolen, but also less developed countries are victimized by the American global cyber police, who quietly and perversely acts to gain control over the entire world.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

March 6, 2020 - Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics | , , ,

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