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UPDATED: June 28, 2014 NO. 12 MARCH 20, 2014
Keeping Cyberspace Safe
Protecting businesses, the public and the government from online threats is a top concern in China's modernization drive
By Yin Pumin

Currently, more than 50 countries have formulated strategies for Internet security and more than 40 countries have established special forces for cyber warfare.

In 2009, the United States established the United States Cyber Command for its armed forces to deal with the military's cyberspace operations. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also has an Office of Cybersecurity and Communications that is responsible for "enhancing the security, resilience and reliability of the nation's cyber and communications infrastructure."

At a 2013 meeting attended by representatives from big global enterprises, Minister Cai said that China values other countries' experiences in developing and administering the Internet and is willing to conduct more exchanges and cooperation in combating online crime, enhancing Internet-related legislation and promoting public awareness in relevant fields.

A new battlefield

Today, a new security challenge is posed by the fact that more people and companies are using mobile devices for their businesses.

A total of 648 million people in China were using mobile phones to access the Internet in 2013, an increase of more than 54 percent year on year, according to CNNIC statistics.

With the majority of Chinese companies using mobile devices in their daily business, attackers are eyeing the mobile Internet for loopholes in corporate systems.

"About 57 percent of enterprise data centers will be running on the cloud by 2015. The centralization of information may help hackers steal large amounts of information by attacking one cloud-computing facility," said Wu Hequan, Chairman of the China Communications Standard Association and an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Because most company executives are using smartphones or tablets to access their business e-mail or undisclosed company information, breaches of these mobile devices could cause serious damage to the target companies, said Tang Tiebing, a security expert at NQ Mobile Inc., a leading mobile security provider in China.

"Although no major data losses were reported in the mobile sector, it does not mean that these services are safe," Tang added. "It is highly possible that somebody has been using mobile devices to collect company information for quite some time without being caught."

According to a survey released by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) last December, less than a quarter of companies on the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong were adequately prepared for an information security incident. Average financial loss due to breach of security in 2013 was $1.8 million on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong, higher than the Asia-Pacific average of $1.6 million.

Meanwhile, a report released by Beijing Rising Information Technology Co. Ltd. on January 14 revealed that more than 800,000 newly developed smartphone viruses were detected in 2013, "dozens of times" higher than the previous year.

Official statistics show that app stores and online cell phone forums contributed to 62 percent of malware transmitted among mobile phones.

To crack down on the trend, the Anti-Network-Virus Alliance of China (ANVA) has released a list of 23 reliable app stores. Smartphone users are advised to download apps only from authorized sources.

However, a report by Qihoo 360 and research firm Gartner warned that by 2020, there will be a sharp increase in "advanced targeted attacks" that could bypass traditional protection mechanisms and persist undetected for extended periods of time.

Aware of the serious damage of cyberattacks, many companies in China have taken action. For example, nearly 80 percent of large and medium-sized state-owned enterprises have started adopting business security software protection, said Qihoo 360.

Use of office computers for personal use, ineffective Wi-Fi management and delayed vulnerability fixes are among the most pressing security issues for companies based in China, Qihoo 360 said, adding that the device with the lowest security decides the security level of the entire enterprise network system.

Email us at: yinpumin@bjreview.com

Technical Terms

Malware: A term for any software that gets installed on a computer and performs unwanted tasks, often for some third party's benefit.

Zombie: A computer that has been compromised so that it automatically does a certain task while connected to the Internet without it's owner being aware.

Trojan: A type of malware named after the wooden horse the Greeks used to infiltrate Troy.

Phishing: The process of stealing personal information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details.

Cache poisoning: The hacking of a DNS server so that all Internet traffic using the server is redirected to an address of the hacker's choosing.

(Compiled by Beijing Review)

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