After President Obama successfully negotiated a much-ballyhooed cyber-security deal with China, hackers based in the Asian nation began trying to infiltrate American companies on September 26th, not even 24 hours after the ink on the paper dried. According to security firm CrowdStrike CEO Dmitry Alperovitch, most of the companies targeted were pharmaceutical and technology groups, indicating hackers were shifting their focus from national security secrets to commercial properties and information. This is no less of an embarrassment for the Obama administration, which specifically pushed and got Chinese President Xi Jinping to agree to refrain from such practices in the final deal only for Chinese hackers to resume said practices less than a day later.
However, Alperovitch went on to say that the Chinese might not have intended for their hackers to operate in violation of the deal after agreeing to it. Instead, he argued that the subsequent hacking was simply an issue of implementation that the Chinese would have to handle by ordering their operatives still engaging in activities against U.S. entities to stand down. This explanation is a bit hard to swallow when one considers not only the raw power the Chinese government exercises over it’s citizens and personnel (including it’s hackers), but also the fact that the impending cyber-security deal was hardly a secret amongst the nomenklatura of the reigning Communist Party. It’s far more likely that the hackers just decided to flout the deal and proceed with their illicit activities anyway.
That being said, we can expect the Chinese to flatly deny they had anything to do with the hackers responsible for the Sept. 26th breaches. If the U.S. presses hard enough, they might even opt to throw them under the bus and arrest them, disavowing any possible links between themselves and the hackers. This is the way the Chinese government likes it, of course. As Breitbart explains:
“Some analysts think the most active Chinese hackers are semi-rogue operations, directed and sponsored by Beijing but kept at plausibly-deniable arm’s length. Others believe even that is a fiction, and the PLA has direct control over the hackers. The group fingered by CrowdStrike as the culprits behind some of the latest raids, ‘Deep Panda,’ is often depicted as linked to the Chinese government without being micro-managed by them.”
Whether the hackers are the internet equivalent of mercenaries hired by Beijing or directly commanded by the Communist Party is moot since the deal was meant to address this exact behavior, regardless of who was responsible for it. Breitbart continues:
“There is no reason to soft-pedal what these attacks represent. So far, it looks like Obama’s agreement with Xi was just for show. Obama loves to talk tough and pat himself on the back for intimidating the Chinese into good behavior, such as his post-agreement declaration that he would be ‘watching carefully to make an assessment as to whether progress has been made in this area.'”
Apparently, he wasn’t watching carefully enough!