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Internet Law - Chinese Espionage Biggest Threat On Net

Asked to examine the state of U.S. technology security, Congress reports Chinese espionage is the "single greatest risk" to the American technology sector, according to the congressional advisory panel named the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. The Commission claims that Beijing has assembled the tools to launch a cyber-war, and has deployed spies who are aggressively seeking out protected and extremely valuable US technology. They summarized the threat, stating "Chinese espionage activities in the United States are so extensive that they comprise the single greatest risk to the security of American technologies."

The panel introduced the report by saying that the inert image China is trying to project for the 2008 Olympics is in stark contrast with reality, stating "China is presenting to the world the image of a confident and benevolent world power. But that image stands in contrast to a number of actions by and policies of China's authoritarian government. As a result, Beijing presents enormous challenges for U.S. policymakers who hope to see China move along a path of reform."

The Commission reminds readers that China differs markedly from the West in that their Internet is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, as well as the rest of their economy, and they seek to feed the voracious appetite of their markets through legal and illegal means. According to one analyst familiar with the report, "What the government cannot get through licit means, they are conducting an aggressive programme of industrial espionage to acquire." The report adds on this topic, "Similarly troubling are the conclusions the Commission reached concerning China's growing reliance on industrial espionage. China continues to supplement its acquisition of new technologies from commercial transfers and direct production partnerships with a large-scale industrial espionage campaign."

The U.K. Financial Times had reported earlier this year that China's military had successfully broke into the US military computer systems, in an attack carried out in June 2007, after laboring for months to crack the codes. The military group known as the China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) was responsible for the breach and they were able to break into the computer system of Robert Gates, the Defense Secretary, which was then shut down.

On an equally alarming note regarding the U.S. private sector, China has also made it nearly impossible to effectively track the safety of Chinese products from the States, as they "control and manipulation of information" in such a manner as to confuse outside analysts. Of course, this maneuver is bound to backfire given that it does not address the underlying issue.

The panel suggests 42 recommendations to Congress in regards to how America can be protected by the risk of a China devoted to cyber-war and industrial-espionage. The panel reports with alarm that the U.S. may be imperiled by the fact that Washington has chosen to outsource weapon construction through China, and that certainly the threat has been overlooked by the American military establishment.

Commission member Bill Reinsch states, "As weaponry gets more and more sophisticated . . . I think we'll find ourselves more vulnerable for parts that are being manufactured by an adversary. It's really something the Pentagon needs to look at seriously." Reinsch is also president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which promotes free trade on behalf of businesses.

Overall, the Commission concludes that not only is China a burgeoning threat to the West, but they are farther along than many defense analysts guess. On this, the report said says China's military prowess has "surprised U.S. defense and intelligence officials, and raised questions about the quality of our assessments of China's military capabilities."

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