Well, former U.S. counter-terrorism czar –currently running his own cybersecurity firm — Richard Clarke is coming out and saying that all electronics made in China may well have built-in trapdoors allowing Chinese malware to infect American systems on command. The malware could do everything from take over a device to disabling it to secretly siphoning information off of it.
Just remember, plenty of military electronics parts are sourced from China too. U.S.-based defense contractors routinely buy things like processors and circuit boards — that end up on the Pentagon’s most advanced weapons, everything from fighter jets to nuclear submarines — from brokers who get such parts in China. As you know, these parts often prove fake, something that’s dangerous enough due to the high risk of a fake part failing. What’s to stop real parts made in China from carrying an equally dangerous cyber trapdoor?
Here’s what Clarke Recently told Smithsonian Magazine:
“My greatest fear,” Clarke says, “is that, rather than having a cyber-Pearl Harbor event, we will instead have this death of a thousand cuts. Where we lose our competitiveness by having all of our research and development stolen by the Chinese. And we never really see the single event that makes us do something about it. That it’s always just below our pain threshold. That company after company in the United States spends millions, hundreds of millions, in some cases billions of dollars on R&D and that information goes free to China.…After a while you can’t compete.”As Gizmodo points out, this may just be clark doing his job as the head of a cybersecurity company to drum up business or it might be another prescient warning from the man who predicted a “spectacular” al Qaeda attack before 9/11. All I have to say is that implanting trapdoors in electronic goods bound for the U.S. would make perfect sense.
But Clarke’s concerns reach beyond the cost of lost intellectual property. He foresees the loss of military power. Say there was another confrontation, such as the one in 1996 when President Clinton rushed two carrier battle fleets to the Taiwan Strait to warn China against an invasion of Taiwan. Clarke, who says there have been war games on precisely such a revived confrontation, now believes that we might be forced to give up playing such a role for fear that our carrier group defenses could be blinded and paralyzed by Chinese cyberintervention. (He cites a recent war game published in an influential military strategy journal called Orbis titled “How the U.S. Lost the Naval War of 2015.”)