Washington: Going on a business trip to
China? Take your passport and visiting cards but not your
laptop loaded with sensitive corporate information as the
sophisticated Chinese electronic surveillance systems may
access them in a giffy, experts say.
China's booming market beckons to American businesses as
the Communist giant is the United States' second-largest
trading partner. However, many are increasingly concerned
about working in China amid electronic surveillance that is
sophisticated and pervasive, the Washington Post reported.
China's brazen use of cyber-espionage stands out because
the focus is often corporate, part of a broader government
strategy to help develop the country's economy, the report
quoted experts who advise American businesses and government
agencies as saying.
"I've been told that if you use an iPhone or BlackBerry,
everything on it contacts, calendar, e-mails can be
downloaded in a second," said Kenneth Lieberthal, a former
senior White House official for Asia who is at the Brookings
But Chinese officials say cyber-spying is a problem in
much of the world. "It's advisable for all international
travelers to take due precautions with their computers and
cellphones," Chinese embassy spokesman Wang Baodong said.
"China is not less insecure than other countries," Wang
Travelers to China often tote disposable cellphones and
loaner laptops stripped of sensitive data. Some US officials
take no electronic gear. Other travelers hide files on thumb
drives, which they carry at all times and use only on off-line
computers, the report said.
"It's real easy for them [the Chinese] to read
everything that goes in and out of the country because the
government owns all the networks," said Jody Westby, chief
executive of Global Cyber Risk, a consulting firm.
"The real problem here is economic espionage," she
Ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Joel Brenner, then
the US national counterintelligence executive, first issued
government safety guidance to overseas travelers.
Though no country was named, "it was really directed at
countries like China and Russia," Brenner said recently.
He based his 2008 warning on cases in which Chinese
malware was remotely inserted into cellphones; the malware
then infected computer servers in the US. He said the networks
in every major hotel are monitored by security agencies.
"What's at stake is not only the security of your
current communications, but the security of your secrets back
home," said Brenner, who advises clients on data security at
the law firm Cooley LLP. "That's the real danger."
Intrusions into computer networks also have been
reported at the US State, Commerce and Defence departments;
they allegedly originated in China, the report noted.
First Published: Tuesday, September 27, 2011, 21:53