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China safe from cyberattacks
Published on: 2010-01-29
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Chinese companies are better protected from cyberattacks than those of any other nation, and governments often launch such assaults on private companies, a report signalled on Thursday.

A survey of 600 IT executives found more widespread use of security measures such as encryption and user authentication in China than anywhere else, with an adoption rate of over 60 per cent. This compared with 50-53 per cent for the US, the UK and Australia, the next highest-ranked countries.

More than half of those surveyed added they had encountered “large scale denial of service attacks” by high level adversaries, such as organised crime or nation states. In addition, 59 per cent said they believed foreign governments had been involved in cyberattacks targeting infrastructure in their countries.

The report was written by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a prominent Washington think-tank, and commissioned by McAfee, the technology security company.

It comes in a month when cyberattacks have been brought to the fore by the dispute between Google, the internet company, and China, which led the US to demand an explanation from Beijing about assaults apparently launched from Chinese territory. Earlier assaults, on computer systems in Georgia and Estonia, have been associated with attackers based in Russia.

However, more respondents in the survey named the US more than any other state as “the country of greatest concern” – the state most likely to launch cyberattacks.

“As a former government official I was disappointed to see the US at number one,” said Stewart Baker, the lead author of the report and previously assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security.

But he acknowledged that, like other countries, the US had more capabilities to launch cyberattacks than to defend its infrastructure against such assaults.

“This is a situation where defence is at a great disadvantage because of the complexity of the code and of the networks and the constantly changing nature of what they are trying to defend,” he said. “The same is true in nuclear war: nuclear defences don’t work so well as nuclear offence.”

Michael Hayden, a former CIA director who participated in the report, was quoted as comparing cyberspace to the wild west. “Right now, the sheriff isn’t there,” he said. “Everybody has to defend themselves, so everyone’s carrying a gun.”

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