She was dead serious. Her stern face complemented the bony index finger wagging the warning:
“Listen to an old lady, I in no fool. On uh des days you gine be sitting in front that computer and somebody from outside* gine shoot you … straight through the screen … or spray something in the house to damage yuh.”
I was almost collapsing in fits of laughter; the pains were in my sides but she persisted with her cautions about cyber space theft of my money, my dignity and any other possession that she could muster to add to her list of reasons for keeping away from technology. All I could think about then was the often-told stories about our fore parents placing food under their radios for the people inside who were talking and singing all day.
In fact, if the old sage was a television person I would have told her then she had watched too many star war type movies but recently, her deep-seated mistrust of these invisible handlers of our money, medical records and almost all our current lives’ transactions returned to me as I read account of cyber space attacks.
These events have left me undecided over whether it was the United States’ concern over cyber security or a non-tariff trade barrier which led that country to ban government purchases of information-technology systems that are “produced, manufactured or assembled” by any entity that is “owned, operated or subsidized” by China.
This prohibition has the potential of affecting sales by such companies to the US Commerce and Justice departments, space agency NASA and the National Science Foundation. Chinese officials are therefore suspicious of the US actions saying that “cybersecurity serves as a good cause for the US to contain the development of China’s information technology industry in order to protect its own”.
The US has dressed up their provisions enough to prove that the action is security driven by including the provision that government agencies can acquire Chinese-made technology if the Federal Bureau of Investigation determines that there is no risk of “cyberespionage or sabotage associated with the acquisition of the system”. In essence, it is not a carte blanche ban. Their action seems plausible against the background of a report from US Internet security firm Mandiant Corp. which alleged that a secret Chinese military unit in Shanghai had hacked the networks of Western companies, mostly in the US, for many years.
China denies these allegations and sees the US actions not only as discriminatory and harmful to trade relation between the two economic giants but also as a fight for market share given the recent growth of China’s information-technology industry and its tremendous negative impact of the counterpart industry in the US.
As the war of words between experts in the two countries continue, I hear the old sage’s voice in my head especially as I read the comments attributed to Yang Yujun, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of National Defense, who said the source of cyber-attacks was hard to pinpoint but that they are “a global issue – anonymous, cross-border and deceptive.”
“What is needed in cyberspace is peace and cooperation, not war and confrontation,” Yang said, as the computer screen in front of me replace the white background screen with a sharp picture of the old lady still waging her finger at me.
The rest of the story told about the US and Japan complaints about attacks from countries including China which were described as new threats to their (US and Japan) national security. The two developed countries are gearing up their defensive machinery starting with their first dialogue on cyber security to be held in Tokyo during May.
In the meantime, US’ military is developing 40 teams of cyber agents to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure from hackers and launch attacks against adversaries while the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, fearing potential threats, has tried to dissuade US companies from doing business with Chinese telecommunication giants Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corp.
That old woman’s finger is tired from all that wagging but we in the developing world need to take heed as the cyber-attacks issue may spill into our back yards. We may soon see grant and aid giving countries giving us instructions about our trading relations with other countries.
Do you agree?
- China’s Willing to Negotiate Cyber Security (katherineiorio.wordpress.com)
- To Combat China’s Hacker Army, the U.S. Is Copying Its Methods (motherboard.vice.com)
- India, U.S. sources of cyber attacks: Chinese firm (thehindu.com)
- U.S. to China: Please stop hacking our companies, if you don’t mind (infoworld.com)
- US Writes Its Worries About Buying IT Gear From China Into Law (allthingsd.com)