In February, a report was released by a security company called Mandian that proved that a majority of the hacking and stealing of information happening within the United States is originating in China. Not just anywhere in China, though. The group managed to find and track the IP addresses of the hacking to a group within the Chinese Military, called Unit 61398.
Mandian has code named Unit 61398 “APT1” which stands for Advanced Persistent Threat 1. The primary targets of APT1? Government information and corporations that help the US government manage and manufacture its infrastructure (our electrical grid, to use one example. The US isn’t the only target of this group. The group has also hacked into Britain and Canada as well as several other English speaking countries.
What’s the big deal, you ask?
The big deal is that this group appears to be stealing the information and data they find and turning it over to entities within China that then repurpose what they know and see to create products and techniques that will help them remain competitive with the United States in the global market. It’s espionage at the highest order.
More dangerously, it could become a huge threat to national security. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, ABC News’ George Will points out that is possible that Chinese officials could use what they’ve learned to effectively shut down the United States (and other countries it seeks to dominate). That, rather than learn and find a way to compete with the military power we have now on our scale (building a huge Navy, for example), they’ll simply shut the whole mess down and defeat us that way.
Is that absolutely what is happening? No. At least, there is no proof that’s the goal—not yet.
It’s okay if that freaks you out—it’s an idea that has freaked out even scarily brave military and national officials, who have equated the powers running China with gang and mafia-like mentalities.
So what does that mean for you? How do you keep yourself feeling safe in your home and while you are online (because, let’s be honest, nobody really relishes the idea of leaving the grid)?
First, check out the security measures your ISP has in place already. Log into, for example, your Clearwire Internet portal and read what the company has done and is doing to keep your information as well as their own safe. If you want to take it a step further, do your due diligence on whatever companies your ISP has employed for its security.
Make sure that you’ve got good security software installed on your computer. Malware Bytes, for example is great at finding threats to your system. AdAware and AVG both have malware and anti-virus protection for reasonable prices.
Learn how to check out the infrastructure of your computer setup. Regularly look at what programs are running on your system as well as which are scheduled for automatic startup when you turn on your computer. Research each program and if you find one that looks weird or that turns up a bunch of “OMG DELETE IT” results in a Google search, take steps to get it out of your system.
Do not open any email or click on any links from someone you do not actually know. Ever. There are no exceptions to this rule.
If a pop up appears on your screen and isn’t actually associated with the site you are visiting, do not click on that ad. Instead, force-shut the ad from your taskbar or your startup menu via the Control+Alt+Delete menu.
Right now it doesn’t look like China is targeting individuals but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still nefarious types out there trying to get your data. Keep yourself safe!