Though it’s no secret to the security world, the US government has specifically avoided naming Chinese state agencies as the source of a tremendous surge in cyberattacks on corporate and government institutions over the course of the past 2 years. On Monday, the gloves finally came off as Obama’s security advisor, Tom Donilon pointed the finger of blame right at China’s military in a speech given to the Asia Society in New York, NY, as evidence gathered by multiple security firms continues to build an unavoidable confrontation on this issue. The Chinese government has of course denied these allegations, but has also said that it is willing to meet with the US and other nations to discuss cybersecurity.
What this means for you:
It’s still very early in the ballgame to decide if this is going to make things better or worse for the average business. At the moment, unless you are on the short list of companies that have information worthy of corporate or state-sponsor cyber-espionage, nothing will change for you, as your threats are likely still coming from the “traditional” vectors: either organized criminal elements seeking to steal from you, or random mischief and mayhem generated by malware controlled by those with less focus and malice. Today, as before, constant vigilance remains the most effective tool in your defense.
Targets of state-sponsored cyberattacks will continue to have a great deal to worry about. Where a “garden variety” attacker encountering strong defenses would normally move on to easier marks, cyber espionage targets will typically suffer through a dedicated, prolong campaign of multiple types of attacks (brute force, trojan horse, spear phishing, social engineering, etc.) because of the valuable data or services protected within and the deep pockets of the government powering their efforts.
It’s not immediately clear what either government hopes to accomplish around meeting on cyber warfare, other than to set up guidelines that will only be used for political leverage when violated by the other party, and probably ignored when it suits either country. As you can imagine, rules like the Geneva War Conventions only work when both sides are willing to abide by them.