Has China hacked all major businesses in the United States? Have they stolen valuable information? According to former NSA director Mike McConnell, China has been behind the majority of the security breaches at U.S. companies. McConnell was the director at the National Security Agency under President George W. Bush. While speaking at the University of Missouri McConnell stated that “The Chinese have penetrated every major corporation of any consequence in the United States and taken information.” In May 2014, an indictment accused Chinese hackers of stealing blueprints and business plans from companies such as Alcoa, U.S. Steel Corp., Westinghouse, Allegheny Technologies and others. Information extracted includes “planning information for advanced concepts, windmills, automobiles, airplanes, spaceships, manufacturing design and software.” While China has hacked into many businesses, it is not likely that they have breached every one. The economic problems caused by these hacks have the possibility of being huge, but we probably will not see any effects for years. That’s a pretty ominous sounding possibility.
McConnell also shared that during the last years of the Bush administration that over 100,000 hackers were employed by the Chinese government with the sole purpose of hacking into computers. His concern is that not only could China take these ideas and bring them to market, but that the information could fall into the wrong hands. He worries that terrorists could steal and use this information to attack the energy grid and financial markets.
Cyber theft on this large of a scale is certainly hard to imagine. Some experts question McConnell’s assertions and one expert goes as far as to say that McConnell’s claims were reckless.
Tension between the U.S. and China has increased as China considers a counter-terrorism bill. This bill would force technology companies to not only create security backdoors to allow the government to conduct surveillance, but give the Chinese government encryption keys. The companies would also be required to keep servers and user data in China and provide law enforcement access to communication records. As of right now, China has put this bill on hold, and it is unclear if they will proceed with it. Needless to say, there has been a fair amount of backlash from the U.S. This bill would be bad not just for U.S. businesses, but the entire global economy.
It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out. The U.S. has made it clear to China that they think the proposed bill is detrimental, and as this is on hiatus as of right now it seems China is taking this into consideration. What are your thoughts? Would passage of this bill affect your business? Do you believe Chinese hackers have stolen proprietary information from “most” U.S. companies as McConnell states? Let us know what you think-we would love to hear your opinion!