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Cyber-attacks

As Americans wrestle with the constitutionality of the use of drones in the fight against global terrorists, like those associated with al-Qaida, there’s another war that the United States should be turning its focus toward — that of a cyber war.

A report put together by Mandiant, a security firm based in Virginia, found a connection between the Chinese military and cyber-attacks on more than 140 U.S. and other foreign corporations.

Examining a seven-year span, Mandiant was able to trace these episodes of cyber espionage, a Washington Post story said, “... back to a single group it designated “Advanced Persistent Threat 1,” or “APT1,” and now has identified the group as a Chinese military unit within the 2nd Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff Department’s 3rd Department, code named “Unit 61398.”

Their target? “International cooperation and development agencies, foreign governments in which English is one of multiple official languages, and multinational conglomerates that primarily conduct their business in English,” the Mandiant report said.

The possibility that China’s military may be behind cyber-attacks or espionage is nothing new. Nor is the response from the Chinese to these types of allegations.

“Similar to other countries, China faces serious threats from cyber-attack and is one of the main victims of cyber-attacks in the world,” the Ministry of Defense blustered. “The Chinese army never supported any hacking activities. The accusation that the Chinese military engaged in cyber-attacks is neither professional nor in accordance with facts.”

At this time, U.S. officials aren’t specifically saying whether Mandiant’s findings are in line with the government’s own investigation into these attacks. But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney did say, “We have repeatedly raised our concerns at highest levels about cybertheft with senior Chinese officials, including the military, and we will continue to do so. It’s an important challenge, one the president has been working on and urging Congress to work on for quite some time.

“The United States and China are among the world’s largest cyber-actors, so it’s critical.”

You bet it’s critical ... as is the possibility that China isn’t necessarily the only possible source for such attacks. Whether China wants to take responsibility or not isn’t the big issue here. Rather, Congress and the Obama administration must do more to make defense against such attacks from anyone or any state a priority, and take steps to punish those responsible.

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