The cyberwar between China and the US has spread from computers into the halls of diplomacy. In a report this week, the Pentagon said for the first time that the Chinese government and military have been launching cyber attacks against the US. Today, Chinese state media called the US “the real hacking empire” and said the country has “an extensive espionage network.”
There’s a nugget of truth in China’s rebuttal. The US has some of the most powerful cyber warfare resources in the world and has long been one of the leading sources of cyber attacks on companies and people. According to cyber security firm McAfee, the US is home to the largest number of botnets in the world, the control servers used to hack computers in the US and elsewhere. Data from Deutsche Telekomshows that far more attacks against its networks come from Russia and the US than China. And according to HostExploit, which tracks malware activity, the US and Russia, not China, have the world’s most malicious servers.
In some ways, Beijing is right to argue that China is also a victim, wrote Jason Healy, director of Cyber Statecraft at the Atlantic Council, last month. Between September 2012 and March of this year, 85 Chinese government and companywebsites were hacked, with 39 of the attacks originating in the US, according to Chinese state media. Chinese authorities also said that US-based servers had hosted 73% of phishing attacks on Chinese residents during roughly the same period.