New Castle News

Editorials

May 23, 2014

Our Opinion: Chinese officials accused of spying on American firms

NEW CASTLE — In a highly publicized move, the Justice Department has charged five Chinese military officials with cyberespionage.

But it’s doubtful these individuals will ever face trial. And it’s highly unlikely the move will do anything to stem China’s efforts to obtain information from the American government and industry.

Most of the charges involve companies with government contracts, including several from the Pittsburgh area. The Chinese government vehemently denies their officials were involved in espionage and promptly suspended a cybersecurity cooperative venture between the militaries of the two nations.

So what does all of this mean? And how will it affect U.S.-China relations?

Realistically, it won’t have much of an impact. Both countries spy on each other, and in the modern era, the Internet is a tool for doing so. And even if suspects involved in cyberespionage are identified, they will almost certainly be beyond the reach of any law enforcement efforts.

And it’s certainly no secret that China has been aggressive in gathering sensitive information in America and around the world. This includes industrial secrets that have helped to fuel Beijing’s economic engine. Why develop technological advances when they can be stolen with less effort?

But while these indictments are aimed at China, they really reflect badly on the United States. It seems that security efforts here remain woefully lacking, at least with the companies targeted.

According to The Associated Press, most of the security breaches weren’t the result intricate efforts to crack security barriers. Instead, they came in the form of emails sent to employees that were clicked on to activate. In other words, company employees were gullible enough to fall for fake emails.

Considering the sensitivity of the work these companies perform, one would expect protocols to be in place to prevent these blatant scam efforts from succeeding. And if it’s so easy for Chinese cyberspies to tap into American industrial secrets, we can pretty much guarantee their efforts will continue, regardless of how many criminal charges the Justice Department decides to file.

From our perspective, the real message in this story is one of self defense. The stakes of cyberespionage are too high to expect China to give up on its efforts. Therefore, Americans need to beef up their barricades to protect information and trade secrets.

And that includes making sure employees understand something as simple the consequences of opening an insecure email.

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