Tom Olzak

Archive for the ‘China’ Category

MIT Report Troubling

In Business Continuity, China, Cyber-warfare, Government, Risk Management on March 1, 2013 at 18:17

In a recent report (MIT Report: U.S. Manufacturing Hits a Wall When It’s Time to Scale), Curt Woodward writes that a group of MIT researchers discovered an almost impassable chasm when looking for investment dollars.  The investment dollars were for needed for 150 production companies wanting to move to full-scale production, and they were only available from foreign investors or if moved off-shore.

Why is this a security issue?  Because it has been clear for a long time that no one wants to build manufacturing plants in the US.  I’m not talking about steel mills; rather, the 150 companies (many started or supported by MIT students, professors, etc.) focused primarily on hi-tech products.  Just what we need… move all hi-tech production–the kind of production that is crucial to our economy and our national security–off-shore or make it vulnerable to the whims of foreign investors.

I don’t care whose fault this is; we spend far too much time in this country pointing fingers when we should be sitting down together to solve problems.  China is laughing is collective butt off as it steals our intellectual property and increasing builds our technology.  I just don’t think it’s that funny…

Nyuh-uh… wasn’t me…

In Business Continuity, China, Computers and Internet, Critical Infrastructure, Cyber Espionage, Cyber-warfare on February 20, 2013 at 18:48

Read this article first. Unit In China’s PLA Behind Massive Cyber Espionage Operation: Report | SecurityWeek.Com.

Now we can talk…

It should come as no surprise that China is aggressively hacking into anything it can.  In 2009, Gurmeet Kanwal wrote in the Journal for Defence Studies,

“The Chinese call their pursuit of information warfare and other hi-tech means to counter Washington’s overwhelmingly superior conventional military capabilities “acupuncture warfare”, a term that first surfaced in a 1997 PLA National Defense University publication entitled “On commanding Warfighting under High-Tech Conditions.”  Acupuncture warfare (also called “paralysis warfare”) was described as ‘Paralysing the enemy by attacking the weak link of his command, control, communications and information as if hitting his acupuncture point in kung fu combat.'”

So the Chinese have hacked, wheedled, and otherwise slunk into our national infrastructure.  They seem to be expanding on their initial acupuncture approach with theft of information needed to catch up with or impede Western technical and financial progress.  Of course, the Chinese deny they are anything but victims.

Yes, it is naive to believe we aren’t just as aggressively going after the Chinese.  However, public and private organizations still fail to understand the threat.  In China, the government has no problem applying pressure where needed to protect national infrastructure.  In fact, it is highly probable the Chinese government can disconnect China from the Internet on command.  In both areas, Western nations are at risk.

The path we must take in the West is to force government, financial institutions, utilities, healthcare organizations, and other critical service providers to secure their networks or face severe sanctions.  After all, we can do little about what China sees as behavior in support of its national security.  What we can do is remove the vulnerabilities it exploits and closely monitor for what is obviously continuous malicious activity.  We’ve waited long enough for government and private management to do the right thing.  It’s now time to pick up Teddy’s big stick and domestically whack some heads.

Government Dysfunction Strikes Another Blow for Insecurity

In Access Controls, Business Continuity, China, Cyber Espionage, Government, Hacking, Network Security, Password Management, Policies and Processes, Risk Management, Security Management, Vendor Management on October 12, 2010 at 12:51

For many years, even before the Internet, changing default access codes, passwords, and other vendor assigned information was considered a basic no-brainer.  And I understand normal people (non-IT) not getting it.  After all, if it wasn’t a good password, why would a vendor assign it…?  And who wants to argue with a support guy on the phone who can’t understand why you changed it?  I get it.  However, when our government doesn’t see the value in the change, we have a big problem.

According to an article last week in the New York Times,

[University of Michigan researchers] infiltrated the District of Columbia’s online voting system last week. They changed all votes for mayor to Master Control Pro and elected HAL 9000 the council chairman. The blaring University of Michigan fight song played whenever a new ballot was successfully cast” (Wheaton, 8 Oct 2010).

To be fair, this is a pilot project by the District’s Board of Elections.  However, I always thought “pilot’” meant seeing how it works in the real world.  So it should also mean setting security for testing system trust.  One reason why this is necessary was included in the same article:

“[Professor J. Alex Halderman] said he also saw signs that computer users in Iran and China were trying to crack the system’s master password — which his team obtained from an equipment manual. (Network administrators had never changed the four-character default password.) He said that the foreign hackers were probably not specifically trying to break into the District’s voting system, but that they represented a threat nonetheless” (ibid.)

In addition to immediate attempts by our “enemies” to hack into the system, we decided to practice global good will by leaving the vendor password in place for anyone who wanted into our system.  What a novel idea regarding how to meet the cyber-crime and warfare challenges we increasingly face.

In case you haven’t yet gotten the message across to your network engineers or internal support personnel, this might be something you can use as an attention-getter (instead of the bat you’ve placed strategically next to your filing cabinet.

This is just one more example of the dysfunction of our government information handling capability.

White House Blowing Smoke?

In China, Cyber Espionage, Cyber-warfare, Government on April 7, 2010 at 11:45

A little something I wrote about recent comments by White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt.

White House Blowing Smoke?.

The Picture Says It All

In China, Cyber Espionage, Cyber-warfare, Government on March 29, 2009 at 11:44

Once again, the Chinese have been caught with their hands in other people’s computers.

Canadian researchers have revealed an extensive Chinese spying operation, which involved the hacking of over 1000 computers in 103 countries, according to reports in several leading newspapers today.

The new report from the Information Warfare Monitor, a group comprising researchers from Ottawa-based think tank SecDev Group and the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Studies, was originally set up to investigate allegations of Chinese snooping on Tibetan exiles.

Source: Massive Chinese cyber hack revealed, Phil Muncaster, vnunet.com, 29 March 2009

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone following the exploits of the Chinese in cyberspace over the past few years.  And I imagine the Chinese government’s response will be the same as in the past, a response characterized by the image below (from the Muncaster article, caption is mine).

The 3 Monkeys Approach to Chinese Deniability

The 3 Monkeys Approach to Chinese Deniability

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