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Book Review: The Chinese Information War 139

benrothke writes "It's said that truth is stranger than fiction, as fiction has to make sense. Had The Chinese Information War: Espionage, Cyberwar, Communications Control and Related Threats to United States Interests been written as a spy thriller, it would have been a fascinating novel of international intrigue. But the book is far from a novel. It's a dense, well-researched overview of China's cold-war like cyberwar tactics against the US to regain its past historical glory and world dominance." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
The Chinese Information War: Espionage, Cyberwar, Communications Control and Related Threats to United States Interests
author Dennis Poindexter
pages 192
publisher McFarland
rating 9/10
reviewer Ben Rothke
ISBN 978-0786472710
summary Fascinating overview on the cyberwar with China
Author Dennis Poindexter shows that Chinese espionage isn't made up of lone wolves. Rather it's under the directive and long-term planning of the Chinese government and military.

Many people growing up in the 1940's expressed the sentiment "we were poor, but didn't know it". Poindexter argues that we are in a cyberwar with China; but most people are oblivious to it.

Rather than being a polemic against China, Poindexter backs it up with extensive factual research. By the end of the book, the sheer number of guilty pleas by Chinese nationals alone should be a staggering wake-up call.

In February, Mandiant released their groundbreaking report APT1: Exposing One of Chinas Cyber Espionage Units, which focused on APT1, the most prolific Chinese cyber-espionage group that Mandiant tracked. APT1 has conducted a cyber-espionage campaign against a broad range of victims since at least 2006. The report has evidence linking them to China's 2nd Bureau of the People's Liberation Army.

China is using this cyberwar to their supreme advantage and as Poindexter writes on page 1: until we see ourselves in a war, we can't fight it effectively. Part of the challenge is that cyberwar does not fit the definition of what a war generally is because the Chinese have changed the nature of war to carry it out.

Poindexter makes his case in fewer than 200 pages and provides ample references in his detailed research; including many details, court cases and guilty verdicts of how the Chinese government and military work hand in hand to achieve their goals.

The book should of interest to everyone given the implications of what China is doing. If you are planning to set up shop in China, be it R&D, manufacturing or the like, read this book. If you have intellectual property or confidential data in China, read this book as you need to know the risks before you lose control of your data there.

Huawei Technologies, a Chinese multinational telecommunications equipment and services firm; now the largest telecommunications equipment maker in the world is detailed in the book. Poindexter details a few cases involving Huawei and writes that if Huawei isn't linked to Chinese intelligence, then it's the most persecuted company in the history of international trade.

The book details in chapter 2 the intersection between cyberwar and economic war. He writes that any foreign business in China is required to share detailed design documents with the Chinese government in order to do business there. For many firms, the short-term economic incentives blind them to the long-term risks of losing control of their data. The book notes that in the Cold War with Russia, the US understood what Russia was trying to do. The US therefore cut back trade with Russia, particularly in areas where there might be some military benefit to them. But the US isn't doing that with China.

Chapter 2 closes with a damming indictment where Poindexter writes that the Chinese steal our technology, rack up sales back to us, counterfeit our goods, take our jobs and own a good deal of our debt. The problem he notes is that too many people focus solely on the economic relations between the US and China, and ignore the underpinnings of large-scale cyber-espionage.

Chapter 6 details that the Chinese have developed a long-term approach. They have deployed numerous sleepers who often wait decades and only then work slowly and stealthily. A point Poindexter makes many times is that the Chinese think big, but move slow.

Chapter 7 is appropriately titles The New Cold War. In order to win this war, Poindexter suggest some radical steps to stop it. He notes that the US needs to limit trade with China to items we can't get anywhere else. He says not to supply China with the rope that will be used to hang the US on.

He writes that the Federal Government has to deal with the issue seriously and quickly, to protect its telecommunications interests so that China isn't able to cut it all off one day. He also notes that national security must no longer take a backseat to price and cheap labor.

Poindexter writes that the US Government must take a long-view to the solution and he writes that it will take 10 years to build up the type of forces that that would be needed to counter the business and government spying that the Chinese are doing.

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is the archetypal wake-up call book. Poindexter has written his version of Silent Spring,but it's unlikely that any action will be taken. As the book notes, the Chinese are so blatantly open about their goals via cyber-espionage, and their denials of it so arrogant, that business as usual simply carries on.

The Chinese portray themselves as benevolent benefactors, much like the Kanamits in To Serve Man. Just as the benevolence of the Kanamits was a façade, so too is what is going on with the cold cyberwar with China.

The book is an eye-opening expose that details the working of the Chinese government and notes that for most of history, China was the world's dominating force. The Chinese have made it their goal to regain that dominance.

The book states what the Chinese are trying to accomplish and lays out the cold facts. Will there be a response to this fascinating book? Will Washington take action? Will they limit Chinese access to strategic US data? Given Washington is operating in a mode of sequestration, the answer should be obvious.

The message detailed in The Chinese Information War: Espionage, Cyberwar, Communications Control and Related Threats to United States Interests should be a wake-up call. But given that it is currently ranked #266,881 on Amazon, it seems as if most of America is sleeping through this threat.

Reviewed by Ben Rothke

You can purchase The Chinese Information War: Espionage, Cyberwar, Communications Control and Related Threats to United States Interests from Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews (sci-fi included) -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Book Review: The Chinese Information War

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  • by gl4ss (559668) on Monday June 17, 2013 @02:23PM (#44032053) Homepage Journal

    problem is, what the fuck is that good for if you're not manufacturing anything.

  • by Jawnn (445279) on Monday June 17, 2013 @02:28PM (#44032103)
    ...of meeting the Chinese (or whomever) on this battlefield, but the sad fact is that we are not. Oh, we're death on "the threat" to RIAA and MPIAA interests, and we damned sure are doing what it takes to smoke out "teh terrorists" (all the while laying waste to our citizens liberties), but as a match for concerted, state-run effort the one we face with China, we're all but unarmed.
  • by alen (225700) on Monday June 17, 2013 @02:39PM (#44032195)

    having the largest army has never guaranteed victory

    Alexander almost always fought outnumbered. The Romans have won many battles outnumbered. same with the USA.

    training, discipline, quality of weapons, intelligence and other factors trump raw numbers

  • Yeah... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmo (77928) on Monday June 17, 2013 @02:41PM (#44032211)

    He notes that the US needs to limit trade with China to items we can't get anywhere else. He says not to supply China with the rope that will be used to hang the US on.

    1. Not bloody likely.
    2. Too fucking late.

    China plans for the long term

    Well, duh.

    People who have been looking at China for the past two decades have been screaming this at the top of their lungs, only for this concept to fall on deaf ears. The US has forgotten about the lesson of Samuel Slater, and China has picked it up and they are schooling us.

    Where the manufacturing goes, so does the science and engineering. And that's what the Chinese want. They want what we had and we're giving it to them hand-over-fist for short term profits.

    The "problem" is cultural, and it is entirely self-made.

    And it ain't gonna get fixed until US businesses start looking at the long term, which has about the same chance of happening as a snowball's chance in Hell.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2013 @02:42PM (#44032229)

    US would have already be fucked. That fact is that Windows dominates in China and the majority of Chinese backbones are bought from US companies such as Cisco. And everybody would assume the backdoors have already been planted.

    Rest assured, only US is capable of building PRISM system or stuxnet virus. As a Chinese I see no difference in two regimes, US and China. They are both controlled by special interest groups. Neither of those countries are mine. As average people we are just given crumbs of the big pie. Only difference is that Americans got enough crumbs, not because the special interest group is more benevolent, just because they can afford less people here.

    Don't give the shit like communist. China is not a communist or socialist country and it never is. Now it is pure capitalist like US, the worst kind of capitalism in the world.

  • In terms of worker productivity it isn't close. The average US worker produces almost 10 times as much value as the average Chinese worker.

    Another way to say that is that we have need for one-tenth as many humans for a given amount of work done. That would be cool if we didn't insist that everyone have a job...

The only person who always got his work done by Friday was Robinson Crusoe.