June 3rd, 2011
01:46 PM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – Is the Chinese government behind Google’s most recent hack attack? Or is an unaffiliated rogue group of China tech geeks going after the personal e-mails of prominent Americans? This is next to impossible to know.

That’s why U.S. President Barack Obama is holding off – at least for now – on any official finger-pointing at the country. This is despite White House staffers themselves having been targeted, among hundreds of others including activists, journalists and government figures. That includes one Cabinet-level official, according to the Washington Post. In the meantime, an alphabet soup of U.S. security bodies are investigating – from the FBI to the DHS and the NSC.

As any China watcher would expect though, Beijing is bristling at the thought it’s being singled out for blame. China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lei Hong pointed out cyber attacks happen everywhere.

"Hacking is an international problem. China is also a victim of hacking. Claims that the Chinese government supports hacking activities are totally groundless and are driven by an ulterior motive."

Now Beijing did not specify more on these motives but it’s fair to say they center on raising suspicion and fear of China as it grows in political and economic power.

Then there’s the revelation of China’s Blue Army.

Last week China’s Defense Ministry confirmed its existence. It’s a highly-trained, elite cyber wing of the People’s Liberation Army. It’s got just about 30 online soldiers. And its stated purpose is two-fold. The first – to defend the country from cyber attacks. The second – to fire off its own online barrages in case of war.

And it’s the Blue Army’s latter purpose that’s got foreign governments and China critics nervous. (One interesting side note – whether unfortunately accidental or distinctly on purpose – is that the phrase “Blue Army” is usually applied to the enemy in People’s Liberation Army exercises. The PLA itself used to be called the Red Army.)

Should governments fear the Blue Army?

In the interest of their own national security the answer may be yes. But, to be fair, other countries do have their own versions. The United States, Israel, Britain and Australia have confirmed theirs. But few other countries have them – or at least have not admitted to them.

Looking ahead, the next development for Google’s claims of a China hacking will be verification. This will be a test for U.S. cyber sleuths to confirm attacks came from China. But well-trained hackers can disguise their origin of attack, making it seem they’re in one city when they’re actually in another country.

And what then?

If it’s proven that the Chinese government is behind the attacks, what would or could the U.S. do? The U.S. and China are intertwined as the world’s number one and two economic powers. Idealists will hope that Beijing isn’t behind those hack attacks on Washington. Realists will say both are likely doing the same to each other.

soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. 50¢

    Did the hackers plant a false trail?

    June 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  2. David Shepherd

    One thing I see as more and more important with respect to compromised credentials is the majority of folks use the same passwords for many different services whether it be their Google account or banking or what have you. I was blatantly guilty of just using the same stinking password for everything. I now use strong, complex and unique passwords I can remember using techniques near the end of this article http://wp.me/p1rE6R-4O and I use LastPass reviewed here http://wp.me/p1rE6R-dO

    June 3, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  3. uglychina

    This country is an ugly country eventhough economic developments increase. This communist goverment let hackers hack to other countries, produce unsafe products, sell contaminated foods, print fake dollars, threaten neighbor countries, kill innocent fisherman. I dont know what to say about this country. It endangers the world now.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  4. ThatsNotTrue:[

    uglychina, you are a hater, plain and simple, the US is doing much worse with it's ongoing wars, which I doubt that I have to go into detail........since the US does the same things or worse but American media refuse to publish it, like the chemical dump in SK, all the Asian ones reported ASAP, but this news station waited a week.
    Now as for the hacking, we live in a cyber world, everything's connected, there are three kinds of wars going on economical, physical and cyber. Well what do you expect......who knws maybe WWIII will be an vius or the duel of the hackers.....or to stretch it an online game that kills people, financially
    As for it being China or not........well there are more computer science majors, people who specialize in computers.....the field is dying in the US, or being over taken by Asian citizens. But I have a question, do they have anything worth hacking into, since it's just email accounts and not some top secret CIA or FBI file, sure the people are important, but their emails??? They can also use their phones to message people........so will we hear more about their phones being hacked next????????????

    June 4, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  5. Rodney

    There's so many books that tell the story of why America is the real danger to the world. John Perkin's "Confessions of an Economic Hitman," "The Secret History of the American Empire – Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth," amd Steven Hiatt's "A Game as Old as Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption" are a few examples of the dangers of America.

    The US also recently attacked Iran with a sophisticated computer worm called Stuxnet, produced by US government hackers. Computer experts say that it is the deadliest piece of malware known today, and it targeted Iranian industry.

    American hackers do the same thing to common people around the world everyday. Consequently, to think that China is a threat is laughable.

    June 6, 2011 at 5:28 am |
  6. Davy

    @uglychina, do you have any idea what your talking about? as a america citizen with a chinese background i am very offended to what you have said. Next time please get your fact rights before you just type random S*** on this page.
    Btw you don't think other countries don't hack? American has a whole underground hackers to hack into countries national security however only china has been intelligent enough to hack through it.

    June 6, 2011 at 5:39 am |
  7. DonX

    Purists, take in a total perspective. You defend China on the basis of US hacking into China and Iran. It's not about hacking per se but who is hacking into which country (as one step towards gaining the upper edge). Flaws aside, which nation would you like dominating the world and whose values constitute world government? (think human rights and political system as the highest priority).

    June 6, 2011 at 6:58 am |
  8. DonX

    btw, I also have a Chinese background

    June 6, 2011 at 7:00 am |
  9. Kobza

    There is a problem here. I was wondering how they managed to say its China. A hacker will never say I am in place A or B, infact you might think its one of you in the office while its someone very far.

    June 6, 2011 at 7:32 am |
  10. Igor

    Those Chinese barbarians... We here in Russia have problems with them as well.

    June 6, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  11. David

    So what if the US does this stuff also? If you are an American citizen you should support America, even if you are of Chinese descent. Koreans and Japanese don't blindly cling to their ethnic homelands as much....why don't you America haters go the f**** back to China!

    June 6, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  12. DonX

    I don't think for a moment Igor that you represent Russians who I'm sure are overall much more sophisticated in thinking than you (Chinese civilisation is more than equal to any nation in duration and degree). What we should be looking at here is not demonising a people (every country has its fair share of barbarism) but the current political system and its potential for nurturing or enslaving the people it governs. I as a Chinese am highly distrustful of the motives and capabilities of the current regime (see what it's doing to its current ethnic minorities as a guide) and would be caution the West not to be innocently beguiled by its outward overtures or be trapped by the lure of its trade opportunities.

    June 6, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  13. Buye

    activists call for jasmine revolution in China mainly on gmails. gmails are severely interrupted in china. who do you think is behind the hacking?

    June 6, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  14. scndnv

    I say, good for China.

    June 6, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  15. slk

    Exploitive westerners
    Poisoned veggies,dumping scrap in asia/africa,hoarding oil and uraniums,nuclear power stations,polluting air planes,
    polluting cars,exploiting resources worldwide,exploiting foreign workers,poisoning and underpaying chinese manufacturers,fracking the depths of the earth for gas,oil rigs along coasts of africa damaging the enviroment,
    tainted canadian meat,tainted dog food in africa,bribery and corruption in africa,selling of arms to "allies" that are now killing its own people..

    June 6, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  16. Alex Winter

    China sucks.

    June 6, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  17. Meiguorenyumin

    Every government hacks in my opinion. It would be even more so in China where control of the media is most important. If people in China do not see it in their news, well it can't seem very important to them , can it? For example I personally asked some Chinese nationals what they thought about Liu Xiabo winning a Nobel peace prize. They didn't know who he was and most never heard of a Nobel peace prize.When you see the ignorant comments that are written by Chinese people cut them a little slack because they have no idea how the rest of the world functions.

    June 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  18. john

    I have seen the hacker labs in some of China's universities first hand back in 1999, 2000-2001. I have lived in China and know that many if not most of these labs are funded my the Chinese government since the universities are controlled by the government. The US needs to significantly increase the number of IT security resources and develop systems that are more hardened and secure than exist today. China will continue its pursuit in these types of activities.

    June 6, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  19. shagly

    The only way to stop the hacking is to stop putting sensitive data at 6 billion peoples fingertips. Unplug the critical data from the internet.

    June 6, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  20. pnyrpbcan

    isnt Symantek owned by a Chinese by now?

    June 7, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  21. catalyst

    bla bala bal

    June 7, 2011 at 4:21 am |
  22. S. Connery

    This just goes to show you that big corporations like Sony are vulnerable, and that the hackers provide a function necessary to keep multi-nationals at bay.

    June 7, 2011 at 4:52 am |
  23. Support China's

    Support China's

    June 7, 2011 at 5:48 am |
  24. Jim

    I am a China supporter through and through. That being said, they do have problems, just like any country.

    One thing I have learned in my years living in China is that the Chinese education system sucks. really really sucks. But they do have great Science and IT programs. It seems everyone I meet can program, hack and do stuff with their computer that most people couldn't even believe. On the other hand, they sure love refreshing their desktops after closing any window so I'm not sure that they need to be feared.

    June 7, 2011 at 6:16 am |
  25. Anil


    Most governments with communist background employ tactics to repress their own people and to expect such people not be aggressive is foolish. what else can you expect from china's communists other than aggression /deceit and intention to promote authoritarian regimes everywhere.The chinese government and people connected to it are rich and powerful but ordinary chinese slog like cattle and are treated as such.I am not chinese but had many chinese friends and know that democracy in china is long way in the horizon.

    June 7, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  26. ko

    1. It is not proven this was done by the Chinese government.

    2. Regardless of that fact, all major countries have spy operations and these days that means electronic survellance and counter-measures, including the US which actually claims to have the most sophisticated capabilities. So it is OK for some but not others? LOL

    3. The anti-Chinese ranting here reflects the poor character of the people doing so.


    June 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  27. PhooBar

    The pervasiveness of a security-weak OS like windows, is the main reason that hackers can even exist.
    Microsoft created a whole industry to plug their vulerabilities.

    June 10, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
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    In my opinino, you are mistaken.


    September 24, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  31. Trenchy

    Hmm.... It is funny that US has an even larger hacker army : the NSA! What a slap in the face!

    July 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm |

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