The New York Times is out with a story about how the NSA has the capacity to surreptitiously install software on specific computers that allow the agency to mount cyber attacks and carry out surveillance, even when the targeted computers are not connected to the internet. The Times reports that the NSA has done this to some 100,000 computers around the world.
This again brings up the issue of the NSA engaging in cyber-warfare, an activity that the U.S. is a veritable pioneer in, but which Washington relentlessly condemns other nations for engaging in.
The “tracking malware” discussed for the first time in the New York Times piece, “is a pursuit played most aggressively with the Chinese,” the report says. The U.S. has targeted Chinese Army units and “has set up two data centers in China — perhaps through front companies — from which it can insert malware into computers.”
Granted, the Chinese engage in cyber-warfare against the U.S. as well, but to frame U.S. cyber operations against China as purely a response to Chinese cyber threats is disingenuous. There is documentation of U.S. cyber-warfare going back decades – and the U.S. has always been, needless to say, way ahead of China on this front, technologically speaking.
“U.S. intelligence services carried out 231 offensive cyber-operations in 2011, the leading edge of a clandestine campaign that embraces the Internet as a theater of spying, sabotage and war,” The Washington Post reported in August, based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden. The key word there is “offensive.”
The hypocrisy of the official U.S. position on cyber-warfare is made clear in two recent Washington Post articles…
The Post reported in September 2012: “Cyberattacks can amount to armed attacks triggering the right of self-defense and are subject to international laws of war, the State Department’s top lawyer said Tuesday.”
And in August 2013: “The CIA and the NSA have begun aggressive new efforts to hack into foreign computer networks to steal information or sabotage enemy systems, embracing what the budget refers to as ‘offensive cyber operations.'”
Either Washington’s logic is airtight and they admit that China, Iran, and other countries targeted by our cyber-warfare now have the right to respond militarily in self-defense…or, the real logic is that the U.S. considers offensive cyber-warfare to be illegal for everyone except Uncle Sam. Which is it?