Cyber witch hunt ignores mote in West’s own eye

By Qi Zhiping Published: 2013-4-2 22:33:02

Recently, a report by Mandiant, an US cyber security firm, stirred up a lot of China-bashing brouhaha. Mandiant's far-fetched accusations were not only denied by the Chinese government, but also challenged by many US cyber security experts. While the dust was settling down, Reuters suddenly jumped into the muddy pond by publishing an article entitled "Top China college in focus with ties to army's cyber-spying unit" by Melanie Lee, a Reuters tech correspondent based in Shanghai.

The Reuters' eagerness to take up the New York Times' relay baton is very understandable. Given Reuters' influence in the media circle and the alarming title, such an article can certainly attract lots of attention. But the claims in the article are unfair.

As Xue Zhi, a Shanghai Jiao Tong University scholar mentioned in the Reuters article, pointed out, "it is very normal for mentors and students to co-author a thesis." So what's all the fuss about? It is even more ridiculous that the author tried to establish links between different institutions on the basis of the proximity of different buildings.

Can we say that a restaurant or even a detective office near the MI6 offices is run by the UK intelligence agents? In the information age, cyber security experts 10,000 miles apart can cooperate seamlessly, so why should they stay physically together?

However, the stuff the author got from the US experts is not helpful at all. For example, in order to cast accusations at the Chinese army and academia, she quoted James Lewis of CSIS as saying "That's something the US does not do." As a matter of fact, the close collaboration and the revolving door between the US intelligence agency and academia are well-known.

According to a European Parliamentary Session Report from 2001, cyber espionage is widely used by the US to benefit US corporations.

Examples include when the NSA intercepted communication between Airbus and the Saudi Arabian government during contract negotiations and forwarded this communication to Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas which went on to win the contract instead.

The NSA forwarded technical details of an engineering design to a US-based firm, who then patented the design before the original inventors. The CIA hacked into the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to obtain details informing their negotiation on quotas for US cars.

The NSA intercepted communication between VW and Lopez and then forwarded this information to General Motors, and NSA surveillance of the Thomson-CSF/Brazil negotiations for a billion dollar contract was forwarded to Raytheon who was later awarded the contract instead.

Reuters knows very well that hacking has long been a problem haunting UK media circles. The hacking saga involving Rupert Murdoch's papers is still unfurling, and the UK authorities are working hard to clear up the mess in the media industry.

According to BBC reports, the US federal authorities lately charged a Reuters journalist with conspiring with the notorious hacking group "Anonymous" to deface the Los Angeles Times' website more than two years ago.

Reuters spokesman David Girardin stated that the accused journalist began working for the company in 2012 and it was "aware" of the indictment. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

The author is a political analyst based in Beijing. 


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