China's Hacker Problem--and Ours

Some just do it for kicks

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When Google pulled up stakes in China following cyberattacks on user information, it became clear that Web security in the People's Republic left something to be desired. But as The New York Times explains this week, China's hackers are more than just a smattering of mischievous whiz kids--they make up a bona fide stratum of society. Their loyalties are numerous and complicated, with some hacking for fun, others for sport, and some out of patriotic fervor. More and more Americans, in light of recent events, are seeing the potential for real trouble in the hacking subculture's controlled chaos.

  • Worst-Case Scenarios John Yemma at The Christian Science Monitor lists the ways that hackers could do America lasting financial damage. "The ongoing cost of cyber-spying is lost jobs and higher energy prices. McAfee, the anti-virus software firm, estimated that $1 trillion was stolen from companies and individuals via the Internet in 2008. And the cost could be much worse if relations between the US and China deteriorate: Commerce could be disrupted, power-grids compromised, and sensitive data lost."
  • What the Cloud Obscures Mike Elgan at Computerworld, ambivalent about the growing popularity of cloud computing, sees the Google withdrawal as a warning we should heed. "It seems as if everyone is moving everything to the cloud. Meanwhile, sophisticated organizations out there are figuring out how to exploit cloud vulnerabilities to harvest valuable secrets. And if Google can't stop them, what chance do you or I have?"
  • Not a Smart Time, Not a Smart Move The New York Times' Thomas Friedman notes that with Sino-American tensions already high for other reasons, cyber-crime could permanently sour business relationships between the two countries. "How many U.S. companies in the future will ever want to buy Chinese-made software or computer systems, which might only make it easier for Beijing to penetrate their businesses? This hacking story is huge and brewing."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.