Your report “China rallies forces to focus online firepower” (October 13), stating that thousands of cyber-attack and defence units are being set up in China, confirms what most informed observers have been speculating for some years. This activity could be catastrophic for the long-term future of western economies.
Companies such as McAfee have recently uncovered viruses that lay undiscovered in western enterprise systems for up to six years; over that time, these viruses poured out data and intellectual property to servers reportedly located in China, harming the economic prospects of the enterprises involved and thus of their home economies. We must assume that many such viruses still operate undiscovered. Reports that China is pouring further resources into this area suggest that past activities have not gone unrewarded.
The question is: how should nations respond? In the UK, senior ministers such as William Hague, the foreign secretary, are taking it seriously; however, there is a dissenting current among some in government, the media and academia. Many have a view that can be summarised as: “If a company is foolish enough to allow its data to be penetrated, it should suffer the consequences. That’s capitalism, isn’t it?”
Western nations must get on to the front foot in confronting these threats. Japan has started to set “honey traps” to catch data intrusion attempts; other governments and private organisations should do the same. Governments should encourage, and even require, better reporting of incidents with follow-up to determine the extent of losses. Boards should require continual review of this matter and the quantification of any damage done.
Attempts at data intrusion and theft should be robustly confronted, and costs should be imposed on countries (not confined to China) that allow cyber theft, espionage, hacking and crime to operate from within their frontiers.
Jon Moynihan, Executive Chairman, PA Consulting Group, London SW1, UK
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