China’s Restless Hackers

From Strategy Page:

April 18, 2006: China has organized a civilian Cyber War force. It’s called the “Red Hackers Alliance” (RHA) and is officially a network security organization, composed of patriotic Chinese network security experts. China does have a major problem with network security, as the average Chinese PC user is much less well equipped, in terms of protective software, and expertise. Computer viruses and worms that are a minor nuisance in the West, are often major problems in China.

The RHA has a paid staff, including university trained network security experts. Officially, the RHA provides training and advice about network security. But the RHA is has also apparently absorbed the thousands of Chinese hackers who used to belong to informal hacker organizations. These groups often openly launched Cyber War attacks against foreign targets. One of the more notorious examples of this was in the Spring of 2001, when outraged Chinese hackers went after American targets in the wake of a Chinese fighter crashing, after colliding with an American P-3 patrol aircraft. American hackers fought back, and apparently there was more damage on the Chinese side. 

In the wake of the 2001 incident, the Chinese hacker organizations began to disband, even though they were the source of more serious, espionage related, hacking. The government apparently liked the talent of the Chinese hackers, but not their lack of discipline. Although the older hacker groups had liaison with the government, this was not enough to prevent “adventurism.” The RHA is apparently the solution to that problem, and is yet another addition to China’s growing Cyber War apparatus. 

China has over 20,000 people involved in monitoring people using the Internet in China, as well developing Cyber War weapons and defenses. This effort to organize Chinese hackers, for a network security effort, may be more successful than attempts to control their more playful activities. Hacking is all about spontaneity and, well, some misbehavior. 

China does not want to alienate it’s hacker community. Having the hackers on your side, in such an enthusiastic fashion, is rare, and a major advantage. But at the same time, ongoing government efforts to control Internet use angers many hackers. If the RHA officials lean on the hackers too much and too often, China may find that it has created a monster it has angered, and cannot control.

Civilian Information Operators.  Shutting down hostile web sites.  The cyber war version of going kinetic.  America needs a capability like this. 

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