United States announces open cyber war with China as a revenge for OPM and other hack attacks
According to a New York Times report published this Friday, the US administration of President Barack Obama has made a decision to retaliate against China for the alleged theft from the databases of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the disclosure of personal information of over 20 million Americans from government databases.
The NYT report suggests that President Barack Obama has decided to retaliate against China, specifically due to the extent and nature of the OPM robbery. That said, the White House is still trying to find a way to retaliate against China without sparking the rapidly increasing cyber conflict.
The decision was made after the Obama administration deduced that the hacking attack on the OPM was so immense that the customary practices for dealing with traditional spying cases did not apply.
According to The Verge, the White House is torn between two options: a symbolic response like a diplomatic protest or the dismissal of known Chinese agents in the United States, to more significant actions like hacking back.
More important steps include retaliatory operations planned to steal or disclose information from Chinese entities which may be valuable to Beijing, to the public, in pretty much same way as the secret OPM files on government employees were to Washington, were leaked by OPM hackers.
The responses to the cyber attack from both the countries have made some officials involved in the internal debates fear an escalation of the hacking conflict between these countries.
For instance, legislators are urging for immediate action, according to The Hill. “The way you deal with a bully on the playground is to punch them in the face and put them on the ground because the only thing they respect is power,” former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said.
This does not imply that a response is expected in the near future or by when would it be done. The White House would have to ascertain the negative aspect of any important, yet proportionate, retaliation is greater than the benefits, or would it lead to retaliation on individuals or American firms working in China. President Obama, clearly seeking maximum advantage, has asked his employees to come up with a more creative set of responses.
A senior administration official involved in the debate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House plans said “One of the conclusions we’ve reached is that we need to be a bit more public about our responses, and one reason is deterrence.”
“We need to disrupt and deter what our adversaries are doing in cyberspace, and that means you need a full range of tools to tailor a response,” the official added.
Legal action may be taken against Chinese individuals and organizations by the US Justice Department who are believed to be responsible for the data theft. For example, last year, five Chinese military officers were formally accused of stealing the intellectual property from American companies. However, many officials describe such punishment as symbolic only because none of them will be prosecuted and sentenced in the US.
Even though no official charges has been made by Washington against Beijing for carrying out the recent hacks including the OPM one, many of the private cyber security researchers and US officials have blamed the Chinese government for being behind the intrusions.
For years, the US has been charging the Chinese government and military of conducting computer-based attacks, including theft of information from federal agencies.
The hacking claims have been dispersed by China as “irresponsible and unscientific.”
Dismissing the cyber attack charges by Washington as deceitful, Beijing says the leaks from intelligence agencies have disclosed that the US itself is the most active executioner of cyber spying against foreign countries, especially against China.