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US builds world's largest cyber arsenal, triggers cyber arms race

By Shi Wangsheng (People's Daily)    10:33, June 14, 2019

The US military and intelligence departments are building the world’s largest cyber arsenal as destructive as nuclear weapons, triggering a cyber arms race in a global context.

They are finding loopholes of software and systems and developing Trojan virus for cyber attacks, even cyber wars.

The US competed in a crazy arms race with the Soviet Union back in the Cold War, during which the two parties had developed nuclear weapons that were able to blow the earth a dozen times. The military competition had placed the whole world in a shadow of a possible nuclear war.

Now in the era of internet, the US, exploiting its advantages in technology and monopoly of the American enterprises in internet infrastructure, is making great efforts to develop cyber weapons, which has triggered another round of arms race, posing serious threats and risks against global cyber security.

The WannaCry ransomware attack, which unfurled across the world on May 12, 2017, hit over 300,000 computers in 150 countries and regions and 100,000 organizations, leading to a total loss of 50 billion yuan ($7.23 billion). A great number of hospitals, educational organizations and government departments were attacked.

One of the important reasons for the ransomware to cause such a huge loss is the leakage of a cyber weapon named Eternal Blue developed by US National Security Agency (NSA) which enabled the virus to spread like a worm under the control of hackers.

When the NSA lost control of the software behind the WannaCry cyberattack,it had an unshirkable responsibility in this blackmail incident and it was like "the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer.

It is noteworthy that the cyber weapon Eternal Blue is only one of the many attack techniques held by the Equation Group of the NSA.

On April 14, 2017, hacker organization Shadow Brokers released a large number of Equation Group exploits, tools, and code including the Eternal Blue by which the hackers could invade computers with internet access and create huge loss overnight just like the WannaCry did.

The NSA attack data released by the Shadow Brokers also included the attack tools targeting browsers, routers and mobile phones, a zero-day exploit for Windows 10, as well as a record of invasions into global central banks and the SWIFT system.

In the same year, the WiKiLeaks began a series of leaks code-named Vault 7, publishing 8,761 documents and files that revealed the highly confidential global cyber invasions conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 2013 to 2016, including attack approaches, targets, meeting minutes, records of overseas operation, as well as attack machines and 700 million lines of code. Experts estimated that this was just a tip of the iceberg of the CIA cyber war.

According to reports, by the end of 2016, the CIA's hacking division, which formally fell under the agency's Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5,000 registered employees and had produced more than a thousand trojans, viruses, and other "weaponized" malware.

Apart from the NSA and CIA, the US Cyber Command is also developing its own cyber weapons. Founder of WiKiLeaks Julian Assange disclosed in 2015 that Washington had developed over 2,000 cyber weapons, making US the largest cyber arsenal.

Cyber weapons are similar to nuclear and biochemical weapons and are able to cause serious damage to global infrastructure, routine production and people’s life. The massive development of cyber weapons of US military and intelligence departments is triggering a cyber arms race, directly threatening global cyber security. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Bianji, Liang Jun)

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