The Cyber Cold War: What Issuing Arrest Warrants Means and What Can Still be Done

computer keyboard the chinese...
computer keyboard the chinese...

We are in a second cold war. The recent indictments of Chinese military officers have definitively shown this to be a fact, yet it is just one of many silent blows back and forth in this bloodless war behind closed doors in which both governments claim they are not involved. Do these indictments actually mean anything? In short, they don't mean much. To the government of China it is a mere bloodied nose, and a show that we do in fact know the faces behind the hacking. That being said, the indictment is real and carries real consequences. For the officers named in the indictments, any online services or credit cards they have with U.S.-based companies can be shut down or seized, and they can be arrested for traveling to any number of countries around the world that have extradition treaties with the U.S.- including Seychelles, where the Chinese government is opening its first overseas military installation.

Just like the original cold war, the only way to keep our heads above water is to keep improving the technology that is keeping us safe. It has been 21 years since both Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA) and Secure Socket Layers (SSL) cryptography came out, and even the newest generation of firewalls are just deeper inspecting versions of the third generation firewalls that came out in the mid-'90s. It's not hard to believe that the Chinese already have those figured out. Therefore, the only effective method to stop our trade secrets from being stolen is to stop worrying so much about collecting as much information as we can from the internet, and finding new ways to protect the information that we already have on the internet. At present TOR (the onion router) is the safest way for an individual or a site to protect themselves, but it has slow load times and a relatively low user and knowledge base, and even the most advanced login systems are the two-step verification methods like the military's CAC card and password system or Hushmail's text message and password system. The fact remains though that current methods are not secure enough, and we need new security technologies -- such as webcam based color/character recognition for two-step verification or encryption methods to protect data from automated systems or "bots."

In any case, we as a nation need to change our priorities. I will be the first to admit that NSA surveillance originally began with good intentions to protect us, but they have gone much too far. Likewise neither the NSA, nor the nation as a whole, have gone far enough to stop the potentially dangerous hacking other than issuing a few indictments against people that are out of our reach. Perhaps if private companies stop funding new ways for us to talk to our friends, and the NSA stops trying to listen into those new ways to talk to our friends we can develop new technologies to keep our information safe. Lest we forget, being hacked by the Chinese is happening now, whereas one email about a terrorist attack out of the 100 billion emails sent daily is yet to be seen.

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