China hacking US universities – and hints at a new East-West normal

by Chris Zappone

This might seem like a simple follow-on story to recent China-US hacking stories, but the NYTimes piece is really central to understanding what’s going on between China and the US. Yes, everyone is hacking everyone as the Snowden revelations make clear, but the threat of reams of intellectual property being siphoned off by China from the US is one of the biggest strategic worries in Washington because it could seriously undermine the US’s long term economic outlook. 

Two details of note in the NYTimes piece that may foreshadow the new normal, in which Western knowledge-workers dump their electronics upon leaving China, or don’t take them in the first place…

From NYTimes’ Richard Perez-Pena: 

Some universities no longer allow their professors to take laptops to certain countries, and that should be a standard practice, said James A. Lewis, a senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a policy group in Washington. “There are some countries, including China, where the minute you connect to a network, everything will be copied, or something will be planted on your computer in hopes that you’ll take that computer back home and connect to your home network, and then they’re in there,” he said.

Also…

Last year, [The university of ] Wisconsin began telling faculty members not to take their laptops and cellphones abroad, for fear of hacking.

 

In other words, a future of ring-fenced, air-gapped technology, where, yes, it’s possible that tech people and academics would visit China and Russia armed only with paper and pen.