China’s in trouble now: President Joe Biden is angry — really, really angry — about its cyberattacks. So angry that the White House on Monday issued a condemnation that actually cited China by name. Oooooh!
Beijing must be quaking in its boots: If officials there don’t shape up, who knows? Biden might castigate them a second time.
The White House statement, which blames the Chinese government for the massive hack of Microsoft Exchange servers this year and other attacks since 2011, reads like self-parody: It sternly (and rightly) scolds Beijing — but doles out no consequences to make the Chinese pay or to deter future attacks.
“The United States has long been concerned about the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) irresponsible and destabilizing behavior in cyberspace,” it chides. And so “today, the United States and our allies and partners are . . .” — wait for it! — “. . . exposing further details of the PRC’s pattern of malicious cyber activity.”
Exposing details — that’s it?
Oh, wait: Washington also got the Europeans to issue similar condemnations (everyone knows how fearsome they can be against China). And it charged four Chinese nationals, including three intelligence officers, with stealing information dating to 2011. (Too bad none is in custody or likely ever to stand trial.)
It looks like those “allies” would only join in as long as the entire effort was toothless. But this tells Beijing that Washington cares more about a show of unity than actually making the bad guys pay. If anything, the Chinese will only feel emboldened to wage more attacks.
Meanwhile, their digital assaults have cost “governments and businesses billions of dollars in stolen intellectual property, ransom payments and cybersecurity mitigation efforts,” notes Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Cybersecurity expert Dmitri Alperovitch warns that Beijing’s breach of Microsoft systems, which put hundreds of thousands of businesses and private info at risk, were “much more dangerous than the Russian SolarWinds hacks” last year, yet those triggered US sanctions against Russian culprits. The failure to punish any “PRC-affiliated actors” now looks like “a double standard,” says Alperovitch. “We treat China with kid gloves.”
China is increasingly testing the West — in the South China Sea, by withholding COVID data, over Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Uyghurs … Let’s hope Biden summons the will to finally push back meaningfully before it’s too late to matter.
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