Russia-Ukraine conflict ‘a reminder’ for China to enhance cyber defense line: political advisor
Published: Mar 03, 2023 03:19 PM
Cyber security. Photo: IC

Cyber security. Photo: IC

What has happened in the Russia-Ukraine conflict has shown that the internet battlefield is closely related to the battlefield of a hot war, as cyberattacks could lead to power outage and cutoff of energy and food supplies, a Chinese political advisor told the Global Times, whose proposal to this year's two sessions also focuses on enhancing cybersecurity capabilities and considering replacing some technologies with domestic products. 

Qi Xiangdong, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee and chairman of a leading security provider Qi An Xin Group, said that an important national security challenge that China is currently facing is the theft of state secrets and sabotage of the state facilities by third countries or hostile individuals both domestic and foreign. 

The damage of those cyberattacks has been rising from "small troubles" to "national affairs." In the digital age, cyberattacks could lead to power outage, supply cut-off of meat and oil as daily food necessities and broadcast interruption, having an incalculable impact on people's lives, enterprise production and social stability, Qi said. 

In recent years, traditional security threats and non-traditional security threats have been intertwined, and the cyberspace has become one of the main battlefields of the game between great powers. China is also facing a more complex national security situation, in which network and data security has become one of the most complex and severe non-traditional security issues that it faces, according to analysts.  

"We have seen that in the cyber warfare of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, critical infrastructure has become a key target of attack, and the cybersecurity crisis has actually occurred, and it may be staged in real life at any time in the future," said the Chinese political advisor. 

From the perspective of attack level, the attackers are also changing into professional groups with certain background, Qi said. "In the past, it was viruses like Panda Burning Incense that threatened us, which did not cause any substantial harm except for minor incoviniences. Now, cyber attackers are often high-level, professional and nationally-backed attack organizations." 

"Their attack is like a hand in the shadows, always ready for a surprise attack, which must be defended with systematic, practical, and normalized network security capabilities," Qi said. 

Chinese cybersecurity experts recently exposed a hacker group, with its core members coming from Europe and North America, which has been launching sustained cyberattacks against China, posing a serious threat to the country's cybersecurity and data security.

On whether China's cybersecurity also faces a technological "bottleneck," Qi said the key to solving this problem is to tackle the major issues in key core technologies. 

"The first is threat detection and situation awareness technology. The core of network protection is to perceive and predict, detect attacks, block attacks, and force crimes to stop," he said. In recent years, with the continuous upgrading of network attack and defense confrontation, network attack methods have continued to innovate with attacks becoming more unpredictable, it requires threat detection and situational awareness technologies to innovate at a faster pace so that we can outperform cybercriminals, Qi said. 

The second is vulnerability mining and detection technology. Network attacks originate from vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities are the natural enemies of protection systems, and vulnerabilities are also the core content of threat intelligence, the political advisor said.  

At present, most of the mainstream IT software and hardware are from foreign manufacturers. Manufacturers can easily discover and collect vulnerability information on target systems, and the US and Western countries have advantages in this regard, he said. 

In terms of core software and hardware, network security products still rely on high-end chips and core software. If the supply of these products is cut off, it will affect the shipment of high-performance network security products, Qi noted. 

If China wants to become a cyber great power, it must have its own excellent technology. For example, according to the requirements of the country's technology innovation planning, the foreign network security system, technology and products should be replaced by domestic products. Especially for the most important and advanced information systems, the foreign network security systems, technologies and products that they originally adopted must be fully replaced, Qi said. 

China should also increase investment in network security construction. "Currently, many administrative institutions and enterprises are in a passive position while facing strong  cyberattacks," he said. 

The budget for network security construction in administrative institutions and enterprise in China is still far behind that of developed countries. For example, according to the fiscal year 2023 budget proposal announced by the White House, the cybersecurity budget of non-defense federal agencies accounted for 16.57 percent of the IT budget, while the cybersecurity investment of government and enterprise agencies in China accounted for only about 3 percent, Qi said. 

In 2023, China's cybersecurity industry will grow rapidly as the further application of technologies such as big data, 5G and cloud computing will bring various security challenges to different industries, making the network security protection more complicated. 

If a breach occurs, the risk will spread rapidly, causing impact to people's lives, business operations and national security at different level. "With the digitalization accelerating, the role of cybersecurity as a foundation will be further highlighted," Qi said.