China Hijacks the Web: A Reason to Push for Greater Online Regulation and Security
Previously published on Dec 1, 2010
On April 8th, 2010, fifteen percent of all global internet traffic was purposefully rerouted through China. This totally unexpected, and seemingly impossible, act was perpetrated by the Chinese state owned firm China TeleCom. Although no one knows if the diverted data was manipulated or copied, this obvious security gap leaves plenty of opportunity for country's like China to undertake a quick, effective cyber war. It also means sensitive pieces of information like passwords, secure communications, and intellectual property are at risk, especially in terms of economic and national security fallout since Pentagon data was hijacked as well.
On the other hand, this attack may have also been a test to evaluate the limits of the concept and the response of the International Community. It may have even been a potentially perverse warning to push for greater internet security. The reality is that the internet was never designed to be secure nor was it conceived for the far reaching role it now plays in our daily lives. As a consequence, individuals, all the governments of the world, and corporations are inheritability vulnerable to those seeking to do harm. Experts in the field, therefore, must now retrofit the Worldwide Web to deal with security issues and create a forum where some form of law can be enforced, but this can only be done if there is enough political will and public support to tackle the issue.
While some leaders have pushed for greater government regulation of the internet in the US, pushback has largely taken any real action off the table. Issues like net neutrality resonate well in a society that only takes action when something goes terribly wrong. Where the threats from individual crackers and the uneven, overbearing practices of corporations do not seem to rally support for greater government oversight of the largely insecure web, China's actions may well do just that. Whether people want government involved in the internet or not, China and other far less restrained nations will surely inject their influence into the workings of the Worldwide Web.
Consequently, we must have some form of regulation and protection offered by a consensus of most governments, if the internet is to remain free for all the Peoples of the world. The challenge in regulating, securing, and enforcing laws in the Wild, Wild West that is the internet is how to do just that. Ultimately, the Worldwide Web is the one place where the International Community as a whole might actually be able to build a governing structure with tangible power, if they develop their resources properly. As far more invasive, sophisticated attacks on the internet are formulated then launched, countries around the world, especially the United States, must be prepared to safeguard their networks by developing some rather intelligent solutions to this long neglected national and international security issue.