China is now clearly the Western world’s cyber bogey man.
The Russians almost took the title, especially with their organised crime syndicates and alleged attacks on Estonia. But it is the massively populated Asian Communist state that has riled so many in recent months and been painted as the biggest villain.
From taking a peek at K.Rudd’s emails, to spying on the US Pentagon’s $US300 billion Jount Strike Fighter project, which Australia is looking at to help boost its airforce, the Chinese have been implicated.
Of course, all sides have denied anything untoward has happened – the Australians and Americans that classified information was stolen, and the Chinese that they were even involved; standard procedure for any administration, democratic or otherwise.
But, for me what is bemusing about the accusations China has been cyber spying, is not that they would do it, but the assumption in much commentary that we in the Western world aren’t.
Forget for a minute that the accusations levelled against China are hard to prove conclusively. Forget that by saying “China” is deviously cyber spying and taking our secrets, we unfairly box the billion or so Chinese people into the same corner as common criminals. Forget that spying has been around since time immemorial and is conducted by every nation state worth its salt.
These are all points sadly missing from the current discourse around China and cyber spying. But an arguably more pertinent question being ignored is, are we doing our own cyber spying?
Is the CIA or the Pentagon, with their ridiculously large budgets and hyper-modernised military strength, cyber spying on, well, pretty much everyone?
Is ASIO or the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, peeking through networks at what other countries are doing?
Is MI5 eavesdropping on digital traffic?
I find it hard to accept there is a Western country that is not “cyber spying”. And if they aren’t, then why not? Secrets have been stolen and traded among nations and companies, since before the Silk Road was a major trade route. It’s not ethical and it’s certainly not something I condone. But it is something I think most would accept as part and parcel of the anarchic world order.
So save me the shock and surprise over poorly executed cyber spying by China – or should I say, alleged perpetrators that perhaps have their origins in China. We are not that much different, maybe just better at hiding it.