The Chinese government is an infamous enforcer of digital apartheid; when its citizens try to access prominent international Web sites like Wikipedia and Flickr, they hit a filter that blocks politically sensitive material. In the West, that information blockade is often described as the “Great Firewall of China.”
But in Mandarin, it is called jindun gongcheng, the Golden Shield. As that name implies, China’s controls on the Internet are capable of blocking inbound as well as outbound traffic. According to some security professionals, that means the Golden Shield is more than just a barrier to free expression; it may also be China’s advantage in a future cyber-war.
“China has powerful controls over content going out and coming in at every gateway,” says Jody Westby, chief executive of security consultancy Global Cyber Risk. She argues that the tight relationship between China’s government and its Internet service providers–originally established to stop Web users reading about censored topics like Tiananmen and Taiwan–also means the country could better coordinate a defense against online attacks.
In the U.S., by contrast, the autonomy of the Internet may leave it vulnerable to state-sponsored enemies trying to steal classified data or shut down servers controlling energy or telecommunications. “They have a decided defensive advantage,” says Westby. “China simply doesn’t have the same issues of coordination [the U.S.] would face in the case of information warfare.”
Sizing up threats in a hypothetical cyber-war is still based on educated guesswork and speculation, but no longer mere science-fiction: A political dispute in May over a U.S.S.R. memorial in ….
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Cyber officials: Chinese hackers attack ‘anything and everything’