politics | February 21, 2013

Cyber Espionage: James Fallows On The Threat Of Chinese Hacking

Over the past decade, government and corporate concerns about the threat of cyber attacks have been drastically increasing. According to a new study released this week, those concerns may very well be justified. James Fallows, a China speaker and national correspondent for The Atlantic, recently shared his thoughts about the findings in the Mandiant report on MSNBC. Compiled by an American computer security firm, the 60-page report lists in-depth details linking a string of recent cyber attacks to the Chinese military—allegations China’s defense ministry has denied. According to The New York Times, it also lists the P.L.A. Unit 61398 in Shanghai as one of the most aggressive and dangerous computer hacking agencies in the world.

Fallows, an expert on Chinese-American relations, tells MSNBC that the Chinese denial of these allegations is "difficult to take seriously." What he says is more important, however, is that these incidents of espionage are happening and are being pinpointed and publicized more specifically than ever before. We are now becoming more aware of these threats whether they come from the Chinese or elsewhere. Fallows says that there seem to be two clear motives behind these attacks: first, to attain political information through the hacking of major news hubs and second, for pure commercial gain.

The former American Secretary of Defense argues that the combined efforts of these attacks could lead to a "cyber Pearl Harbor." Fallows, however, believes that it is unlikely it will escalate to that point given the current climate between the two countries. What's more of an issue, he explains, is the ongoing theft of commercial intellectual property and attacks on news publications that are taking place every day. Having lived in China himself for several years, Fallows has become a leading voice on the social, political, and economic conditions in the country. In his talks, he expands on his his reporting for The Atlantic. He cuts through the rhetoric to explain what we need to know about what's happening overseas—and how that affects us here at home.

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