The Real War is already on: Decoding China's Cyber-War

    07-Jun-2020   
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China does not have the courage to fight even a armed proxy war. The only war China will fight with India is an Information war and India has to firm its stance and combat for Information war with China.
 
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China's use of cyber militias arguably endures China's War tradition
 
In the mid-1980s, Deng Xiaoping, China's de facto leader, acquaint with the concept of Active Defense into Chinese military rational. Active Defense was perceived of as an exertion in ju diren yu guomen zhi wai (resisting the enemy outside the gates of the nation),Under Active Defense, a Chinese military retort can be triggered by not only kinetic act but also by political or other strategic combat. This subject is becoming more and more pertinent to the cyber domain. Since 1993, Active Defense has been invoked through a notion of operations variously referred to as gaojishu tiaojianxia de jubu zhanzheng (fighting local wars under hi-tech conditions) and xinxihua tiaojianxia de jubu zhanzheng (fighting local wars under settings of informatization).
 
Wang Pufeng often denoted as the 'father of Chinese information warfare(I.W.)', emphasized the criticality of accomplishing zhixinxiquan (information supremacy) in the initial phases of conflict, and spoke of I.W.'s potential to cause 'soft fatalities' by hurting the information competences of an opponent and creating military results with negligible loss of life. 
 
President Xi, himself, chairs China's Cybersecurity and Information eco-system which consist of at least nine nationals departments that further has multiple subordinate centres. Further, China has around 31 provincial-level cyberspace administrators, and it also has city and village level cyberspace administrators.
 
Broadly, China Information warfare consists of the following tactics (source: Inkster, Nigel. China's Cyber Power, Taylor & Francis) :
 
1. Command and Control Warfare
 
Command and control warfare (C3) is the ambushing of the enemy's capability to give commands and exchange information with field units; these ambushes are called anti- head and anti- neck manoeuvres. "Anti-head" and "anti-neck" are techniques in which the opponents' leader is either killed or at least isolated by stopping or delaying his commands to the field units.
 
In 2008 U.S. presidential race, the Chinese hacked accounts of the McCain and Obama campaigns, deceptively observing for position papers and the strategies the candidates would take. This is the kind of "looking around" that detects the persons who are writing the things the president will read and how they think.
 
2. Electronic Warfare 

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Electronic warfare is the exercise of enhancing, degrading or intercepting radio, hardware, or cryptography of the enemy.
 
In November of 2010, several systems were hacked by some Chinese who established over 300 control systems in Beijing. The target was RSA - famous for its capability to do encryption of various genera. RSA generates encryption tokens that many business use.
 
During the next few months, numerous major companies were hacked, on the same pattern used for RSA hack. The major entities hacked were: the IRS, Verisign (another crypto- solutions company), USAA, which primarily handles insurance and banking for military people, several locations of Comcast and Computer Sciences Corporation, IBM, the U.S. Cert, which handles investigations into computer incidents at the federal level, the Defense Department Network Information Center, Facebook, Fannie May, Freddie Mac (just so we have most of those housing loans covered), Kaiser Foundation Health Care System, McAfee, Inc., Motorola, Wells Fargo Bank, MIT, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, University of Pittsburgh, VMWare, the World Bank, and almost every telecommunications company of any size, anywhere in the world. In order to measure the effectiveness, they also hacked all the major telecoms in China. So they are hacking their own telecoms.
 
3. Hacker warfare
 
Hacker warfare is the use of methods such as altering software to destroy, degrade, exploit, or leak information systems, both military and civilian. The Chinese snip two things: source code for software, and codesigning certificates. These two together permit them to set up networks that appear genuine but are controlled by them. Original source code is proprietary to a company, but the Chinese mandate it, be shared under their "cybersecurity" laws. If the Chinese cannot get code from the company directly, they steal it.
 
Having that source code and the security certificates permits the Chinese to create software that will amass intelligence information of all types. It appears legitimate, and users will never recognize the difference. China controls parts of the world's networks (through companies like ZTE, Huawei); parts of others use components made by Chinese electronic companies (like FiberHome); China has demonstrated a capability to manipulate networks on a large scale. Several years ago, for 18 minutes, many of the U.S. network traffic was rerouted to China. Majority of this traffic was from U.S. Defense Department.
 
This kind of cyber espionage is the reason why all the major countries are resisting, or we can say boycotting, ZTE and Huawei. India should also build its short and long term strategy to counter Chinese communication equipment. Below is the list of China's cyber-espionage: 
 
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4. Cyber troop warfare  
 
Cyber troops are teams, affiliated to government, military or political parties, manipulating public opinion through social media. (Bradshaw & Howard, 2017) China has the most prominent cyber troop army (around 2 million). China's cyber troops pose several threats to India. E.g. China manipulates Pakistan's public opinion about India at a certain point or during some significant events. This can be due to political reasons, to divert the attention, or to control India-China's bilateral issues for its benefits.
 
China's cyber troop focus on non‐lethal psychological operations using social networks like Facebook and Twitter to fight enemies by gaining control of the narrative in the information age (Solon, 2015). The primary task of this unit is to shape public behaviour through the use of "dynamic narratives" to create political propaganda that suits China's interest. (source: NYU-UCL research report)
 
In conclusion, at present, forget about full-fledged war China do not have the courage to fight even small armed proxy war. The only war China will fight with India is an Information war. India has to firm its stance and combat for Information war with China. China's Communist party does not understand the language of cooperation. Recently in Meerut, more than 13000 mobile phones became active on the same IMEI. Meerut police registered a case and began an investigation. All mobiles belong to Vivo India. 

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In 2019, one lakh people used the same IMEI number, again all mobiles belong to Vivo India. These fake IMEI based mobile can be used to provoke religious riots/unrest, industrial riots/unrest, political disagreements/clashes etc. It is a massive threat to internal security. Action should be taken against Chinese handset maker- Vivo if found guilty. Chinese cyber-espionage capabilities heavily depend on Chinese equipment. If we punish culprit Chinese equipment or handset makers, it will not only break the backbone of the cyberwar but also will hit them economically. India should also ban Huawei and ZTE. Both ZTE and Huawei are getting orders worth crores even from BSNL and MTNL, forget about orders from private telecom operators.
 
Mr Prasoon Sharma- Honorary Fellow- Global Governance Institute, London stated "No Chinese company favours any kind of confrontation between India-China as many Chinese companies earn 20-40% of their global revenues from India. India-China trade deficit implies, in general, that China is earning more than $50 billion from India. Definitely amid COVID19 slowdown, China may not want to lose these earnings".
 
India should also build its Cyber troop army and immediately start "Active defence." CCP has many fault lines and wounds like Hong-kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Unemployment, regionalism. India should strike them by equipping Chinese citizens with facts CCP is hiding. Creation of cyber troop is urgent If Indian government faces some procedural delays than BJP/RSS should build and start the combat. Even one or two measures mentioned above if implemented effectively will bring CCP on backfoot, and they will mellow down. Nevertheless, India should keep up the "Active defence."