10 February 2011

What's In It for China?

According to the report, the intruders used widely available attack methods known as SQL injection and spear phishing to compromise their targets. Once they gained access to computers on internal company networks, they would install remote administration software that gave them complete control of those systems. That made it possible for the intruders to search for documents as well as stage attacks on other computers connected to corporate networks.

In addition to their parallels to the Google attacks of last year, the intrusions resembled a Chinese-based electronic espionage network that was found in 2009 and named GhostNet. In that case, researchers at the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto uncovered an elaborate network aimed at government computers as well as those of nongovernmental organizations like the office of the Dalai Lama. The researchers concluded that the control servers of the attack system were based on the island of Hainan, which is part of China. _NYT
It is bad enough that tin-pot oil dictatorships such as Venezuela and Russa systematically lure international oil&gas companies into partnerships -- only to nationalise all of the multinational's in-country assets. Over and over again. Now China has been caught red-handed attempting to use computer hacking tools to disrupt multinational oil & gas operations. What is in it for the Chinese?
At least five multinational oil and gas companies suffered computer network intrusions from a persistent group of computer hackers based in China, according to a report released Wednesday night by a Silicon Valley computer security firm.

...Operating from what was a base apparently in Beijing, the intruders established control servers in the United States and Netherlands to break into computers in Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Greece and the United States, according to a report, “Global Energy Cyberattacks: ‘Night Dragon.’ ”

The focus of the intrusions was on oil and gas field production systems as well as financial documents related to field exploration and bidding for new oil and gas leases, according to the report. The attackers also stole information related to industrial control systems, the researchers noted, but no efforts to tamper with these systems were observed.

McAfee executives declined to name the victim companies, citing nondisclosure agreements it signed before being hired to patch the vulnerabilities revealed by the intrusions. Last year, when Google announced that intellectual property had been stolen by Chinese intruders, it expressed frustration that while it had observed break-ins at a variety of other United States companies, virtually none of the other companies were willing to acknowledge that they had been compromised. _NYT

The opportunities for western oil&gas companies seem to be expanding almost exponentially, given new drilling and exploration techniques. Oil & gas production in the US and elsewhere around the world are set to rise as a result, with much growth in exploration and production sectors.

What can China expect to gain from disrupting western and multinational oil & gas enterprises? Is is nothing more than a show of force projection, far beyond Chinese borders? Is it a warning? Or is it rehearsal and preparation for a more integrated effort to disrupt western energy supplies and critical information systems?

China is known for its industrial sabotage, its product counterfeiting, its outright theft of technologies from partners, and its iron-fisted control over information sources and expression inside its borders. Is China experimenting with similar exertion of control over global information streamways, with a hoped-for domination over energy, financial, information, and political flow of data?

Clearly, with China one must never let down his guard.

Cross-posted to Al Fin Energy

More: Brian Wang looks at China's ambitious plans for innovative -- perhaps technologically revolutionary -- change over the next decade. According to Brian, "Special emphasis is on four key areas, namely space science, information technology, energy and health." In addition, China is looking at US$ 1.5 trillion in investments into other potentially disruptive technologies.

The western world runs on high-speed information. Were China to learn to tap into, control, or largely disrupt the massive flow of information which forms the foundation of modern western prosperity, the entire global future would be up for grabs.

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Blogger Ugh said...

There was an incident in April 2010 that was not widely reported(you may have reported on it here) where a substantial portion of global Internet traffic was re-routed through Chinese core routers. This traffic is normally routed through U.S. or European infrastructure. Is was not reported as to what the Chinese were looking for and official government entities denied any responsibility. They do know that U.S. corporate AND government networks were affected. My guess - proof of concept or purposeful misdirection so they could do mischief elsewhere...

Friday, 11 February, 2011  
Blogger al fin said...

Interesting. Thanks, Craig.

And still Obama and the greens are lusting after the "smart grid," which will make it so much easier to hack a country's electrical power supply.

Saturday, 12 February, 2011  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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