The New York Times has an alarming story on how Chinese hackers have been attacking the newspaper for the last four months--including infiltrating its computer systems, stealing corporate passwords for its reporters, and breaking into the e-mail accounts of two foreign bureau chiefs. The Chinese hack is apparently retaliation for a New York Times story, which found that relatives of China's prime minister had accumulated several billion dollars through sweetheart business dealings. This is an unacceptable break-in that attempts to chill making information available to the public.
This week we also learned that the US is escalating its investigation into the government sources for another explosive New York Times article on the Stuxnet computer virus that attacked Iran's nuclear reactors. This is also an unacceptable hacking (euphemistically called "monitoring") that attempts to chill getting information to the public.
Both of these intrusions--instigated by newspaper articles that provided "too much" information to the public that offended government actors--are wrong and have a chilling effect.
Using so-called spy software designed to capture screen images from laptops of employees as they were being used at work or at home. The software tracked their keystrokes, intercepted their personal e-mails, copied the documents on their personal thumb drives and even followed their messages line by line as they were being drafted
Does this sounds like a computer attack done by Chinese hackers or US surveillance authorities?
The answer is that these methods have been used by both the Chinese (evidence points to the Chinese military) that hacked the New York Times and the US in hacking its own employees' e-mails, phone calls, and text messages--originating not just on their government computers, but on their private accounts as well.
Both are wrong. Both have a chilling effect. Both evidence the vicious clampdown on any information that embarrasses a government, or worse, exposes its illegalities.
Cyberattacks are considered war crimes by both the Chinese and US governments, though both countries actively engage in using cyberwarfare against other nations and their own people.
Today's Times article states:
The mounting number of attacks that have been traced back to China suggest that hackers there are behind a far-reaching spying campaign aimed at an expanding set of targets including . . . activists and media organizations inside the United States. The intelligence-gathering campaign, foreign policy experts and computer security researchers say, is . . . about trying to control China’s public image, domestically and abroad.The exact same thing can be said of the U.S., as Glenn Greenwald summarized so aptly:
The permanent US national security state has used extreme secrecy to shield its actions from democratic accountability. . . [T]hose secrecy powers were dramatically escalated in the name of 9/11 and the War on Terror, such that most of what the US government now does of any significance is completely hidden from public knowledge. Two recent events - the sentencing last week of CIA torture whistleblower John Kirikaou to 30 months in prison and the invasive investigation to find the New York Times' source for its reporting on the US role in launching cyberwarfare at Iran - demonstrate how devoted the Obama administration is not only to maintaining, but increasing, these secrecy powers.