US offensive cyber capabilities, The Guardian, and the new rules of the game

by Chris Zappone

No big surprise here, Guardian. The White House has been hinting about this for some time. On Twitter, the pundits seems to be clutching to this blind quote:

“We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world.”

The US likes to haul China before the international court of public opinion for “doing what we do every day”, the source added.

But the most important quote comes earlier. Says a US official:

“Once humans develop the capacity to build boats, we build navies. Once you build airplanes, we build air forces.”

“As a citizen, you expect your government to plan for scenarios.”

And why shouldn’t the US? I think US citizens would be outraged to learn their government wasn’t capable of hitting back when the US is hit.

The same official says the US is ” very interested in having a discussion with our international partners about what the appropriate boundaries are.”

And that’s what Obama and Xi are doing, as I post this. Although the US no doubt has a robust hacking regime (i.e. it “hacks everyone”) it would be interesting to see how deep the links are between the NSA and Goldman Sachs, for example. Especially compared to links between PLA Unit 61398 and say, Huawei, ZTE and China’s state-owned-enterprises, or its major steel makers looking for sensitive pricing data from resources companies abroad.

It’s China’s use of cyberespionage to bolster its industries and economy that is likely forcing the US to consider offensive responses. And note the American preoccupation with rules, laws and “appropriate boundaries.”

This isn’t to say the Guardian and Washington Post scoops aren’t important. But regarding offensive cyber operations, the scoops might not be important in the way much of the West is taking them to be.

I would be really curious about the nationality of American Glenn Greenwald’s source for these “leaks” in particular. As an aside, it’s worth noting that The Guardian suffers more than most UK publications from the Athens-Rome complex with regards to the US. Who can forget the Clark County debacle of 2004?