Invisible arms race: The internet balance of power

Claims that China has been hacking into the West’s military computers have led to concern that future global conflicts may be fought in cyberspace. Clifford Coonan investigates

The experts tell of how cyber spies breach supposedly unbreachable firewalls as smoothly as a skilled jewel thief, before swooping on a hard drive, snatching the secret files, and sending them to a third country, usually somewhere in Asia such as South Korea or Hong Kong. Then they make good their escape, often leaving no trace of the raid.

Cyber espionage costs British companies billions of pounds every year, not only in the direct effects of stolen secrets, but in the loss of competitive advantage. There have long been reports that China operates a web of operatives throughout Europe, who penetrate all levels of key industries. “As cyber warfare grows, so does cyber espionage. There have been significant advances in China but I still think China is playing catch-up on the West in this game – the West has a lot more to spend – just look at the Chinese military budget and compare it to the American spending on defence,” said the analyst.

One internet commentator points out how the US controls the domain name system, and could do a lot of damage to China by simply removing the “cn” domain.

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