A cybersecurity cold war first: Xiang Li, sentenced

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.

A word about Donilon’s words

Worth noting that Donilon’s words were the White House’s most explicit comments on Chinese cyberhacking.

Before the White House commented in response to the Mandiant report, but were mostly happy to let Mandiant do much of the talking. Now the White House is talking…

I see US rightwingers are finally taking notice.

How to tell?

They are accusing Obama of not having acted soon enough

According to the Washington Times:

On plans to deter Chinese cyber attacks, senior administration officials turned down a series of tough options designed to dissuade China from further attacks that were developed over a three-month period beginning in August 2011.
According to administration officials familiar with internal discussions, the options were dismissed as too disruptive of U.S.-China relations.

And this gets at the US’s conflicted position with China. On one hand, China is a massive trade partner that the US was wary of offending. On the other, China is a massive, long-term strategic competitor.

I wonder if voices calling for a more critical view will grew in the White House, and in the US overall.

For Repubs in search of an issue, this is a no-brainer. I ask them: who is tougher on Chinese hackers? The Republicans or the Democrats?