Sy Hersh on cyber wars

Updated below.

Fascinating story in New Yorker by the well-known journalist Seymour Hersh about cyber war and cyber threats.

He begins with an account of the emergency landing in China of a US reconnaissance plane, equipped with NSA computers. Seems the Chinese might have reverse engineered the equipment.

It was more than two years before the Navy acknowledged that things had not gone so well. “Compromise by the People’s Republic of China of undestroyed classified material . . . is highly probable and cannot be ruled out,” a Navy report issued in September, 2003, said.

Mastering [the US equipment] would give China a road map for decrypting the Navy’s classified intelligence and operational data. “If the operating system was controlling what you’d expect on an intelligence aircraft, it would have a bunch of drivers to capture radar and telemetry,” Whitfield Diffie, a pioneer in the field of encryption, said. “The plane was configured for what it wants to snoop, and the Chinese would want to know what we wanted to know about them—what we could intercept and they could not.” And over the next few years the U.S. intelligence community began to “read the tells” that China had access to sensitive traffic.

Probably explains why there are so many Chinese hacking events and spam.

WikiLeaks too can be considered part of the cyber war; they are the resistance so to speak. I should have called my AAG session not just “Geographies of Intelligence” but “Geographies of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence.”


Summary of Hersh’s main points as I see them:

1. Don’t confuse economic cyber-spying with cyber “war.” Basically industrial espionage is not terrorism. Even from China, which is a scapegoat for increased military funding.

2. What makes us safer? Encryption. However, security agencies are avidly opposed to encryption because then they can’t listen in. Case in point: new Obama moves to allow the N.S.A. to “police online communications” (including Skype, BlackBerry etc). Some of you might remember the “clipper chip” fiasco of the 1990s.


One response to “Sy Hersh on cyber wars

  1. Pingback: Sy Hersh on cyber wars | Open Geography | Cyber Wars

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