China on frontlines of cyber security threat

Updated: 2014-04-19 21:56


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BEIJING - Twenty years after it embraced the Internet, China has become a cyber giant, but a weak one vulnerable to a skyrocketing number of threats.

Since China formally became a member of the global Internet club on April 20, 1994, Internet users had grown to 618 million at the end of last year, the largest number in the world.

However, due to the lack of technologies, experience and strong teams to counter online crime, China finds itself embroiled in cyber security threats from both within and outside the country, especially from the West.

A sign of China's weakness in cyberspace is the fact that China annually imports CMOS chips worth more than 200 billion US dollars, which far exceeds its crude oil imports, according to Deng Zhonghan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Disadvantages in software and hardware for information technologies mean Chinese government and industries are unprepared for cyber-espionage. Any sabotage could pose dangers to the country's security and development as well as people's lives and work, experts say.

The situation became more urgent after Edward Snowden, a former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, said the US had been hacking into institutions based on the Chinese mainland.

The NSA has also been spying into the servers of Chinese company Huawei's sealed headquarters, according to revelations by The New York Times and Der Spiegel, which the US has not denied.

The spread of online crimes, including the dissemination of rumors and pornography, are also threatening social stability, forcing authorities to enhance campaigns to clean up cyberspace.

To better coordinate Internet security and informatization work among different sectors, China has set up a central Internet security and informatization leading group led by President Xi Jinping to turn the nation into an "Internet power."

"Without cyber security, there is no national security," Xi warned.

No business is immune

China's National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team Coordination Center said in its latest annual report that nearly 11 million Chinese PCs were infected last year. Of these, 30 percent of the attacks stemmed from US sources.

About 15,000 computers were hit by Trojan Horse malware and 61,000 websites were targeted with backdoor attacks that originated overseas.

Wang Minghua, the center's operation department director, said threats to China's economic information security are rising as the center settled more than 10,000 cases of phishing websites targeting Chinese banks, a 55 percent increase compared with that of 2012.

Safety risks could affect Internet trade platforms and mobile payment applications and relevant industries as well as consumers' privacy, he said.

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