A senior administration official recently listed several ways that the United States is taking aim at the Chinese hacker community on the whole. That list includes everything from economic sanctions to a blanket ban on Chinese hackers attending conferences in the US. It’s actually already happening.
Reuters reports, “Ten to 12 Chinese citizens were unexpectedly denied visas last week to attend a space and cyber conference hosted by the Space Foundation in Colorado this week.” The conference bit of it seems a little superficial at first — conferences often just involve a bunch of boring speakers and bad coffee — but the implications are more severe. The government is thinking about using visa restrictions to keep Chinese out of the U.S. for both big hacking and academic conferences. The U.S. hacker community is calling it both “terrible” and “racist.” And the government can do it, too, even if the Chinese visitors aren’t specifically hackers.
This latest round of cyber sabre-rattling comes less than a week after the FBI issued Wanted posters for several Chinese army hackers, who were charged with some serious cyber crimes. These charges come after an on-going period of relentless hacking against major U.S. targets like The New York Times. The government’s been pursuing talks to find a solution to the problem, but China’s only denied the accusations. “If the Chinese don’t re-engage, they [U.S. officials] have more things in their bag of tricks,” said James Lewis, a cyber security specialist who consults the Obama administration.
Again, for now, this is all a bunch of posturing. But Chinese citizens are already starting to get stopped at the border, and the government’s threatening to do it more often. This hacking problem clearly isn’t going to solve itself. [WSJ via Reuters]