A cybersecurity cold war first: Xiang Li, sentenced

by Chris Zappone

Xiang Li was sentenced to 12 years in US prison for selling pirated US software worth more than $100 million. Li is the “first Chinese citizen to be ‘apprehended and prosecuted in the US for cybercrimes he engaged in entirely from China.”

Yep, that’s right. US federal agents arrested Li on the Pacific island of Saipan, where they lured him in the expectation of delivering pirated software.

While it’s not the Cold War all over again, plucking some one off the street, or island shows a more active stance on the part of the US. Unlike the old US-Soviet conflict, trade channels between the US and China remain wide open. Perhaps, too wide. Perhaps this is the start of a narrowing. 

It will be interesting to see China’s response, or non-response. I could imagine the Chinese staying quiet, unwilling to let one software pirate’s extradition spoil the US-China relationship.

But the arrest and sentencing of Li supports the notion, articulated by outgoing White House national security adviser Tom Donilon, that cybertheft was at the “center” of the US-China relationship and not an “adjunct” issue.