We all know that China has trouble coming up with original ideas that don't involve oppression, but who knew that their blatant copying and bootlegging had gotten this bad? Richard Clarke, a former cybersecurity advisor who served under Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush told the Smithsonian that China has hacked into every major American company to steal their R&D.
Clarke, who runs a cybersecurity firm called Good Harbor nowadays, has been spreading some really interesting ideas to promote his new book, Cyber War. In the book, Clarke paints a pretty startling picture of the future of warfare and modern cybersecurity issues, like the Stuxnet worm.
“I'm about to say something that people think is an exaggeration, but I think the evidence is pretty strong: every major company in the United States has already been penetrated by China,” Clarke told The Smithsonian. It's the same with Britain, too. The really scary part is that it's not just consumer goods that they're targeting, but even military manufacturer. Chinese hackers already have information on the US' next generation fighter bomber, the F-35.
Even worse, important systems could easily be compromised by trojans and backdoors built into their Chinese components. “My greatest fear 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 R&D stolen by the Chinese. And we never really see this single event that makes us do something about it.”
So, what do we do? Is it already too late? Clarke doesn't offer much in the way of solutions in the interview, other than noting that US cybersystems has strong offensive systems and a weak defensive structure. This is a man who knows what he's talking about (back in 2001, he tried – and failed – to warn the government that Al-Qaeda was planning a major attack on American soil), so it is worth listening to what he's got to say, even if he is trying to sell a book.
The Smithsonian sums up their interview pretty nicely:
[We] left Clarke's office feeling that we are at a moment very much like the summer of 2001, when Clarke made his last dire warning. “A couple hundred people have labelled me as Cassandra,” Clarke says. “And I've gone back and read my mythology about Cassandra. And the way I read the mythology, it's pretty clear that Cassandra was right.”
Maybe it's about time the US government starts worrying about the threats other countries pose to it, and less about taking care of dinosaur industries that can't get people to keep them alive.