The Cyber Wars Begin: Obama Says US "Must Retaliate" Against China For Historic Data Breach

Tyler Durden's picture

On Friday, we highlighted a "secret" NSA map which purports to show every Chinese cyber attack on US targets over the past five years. "The prizes that China pilfered during its ‘intrusions’ included everything from specifications for hybrid cars to formulas for pharmaceutical products to details about U.S. military and civilian air traffic control systems," intelligence sources told NBC, who broke the story. 

The release of the map marked the culmination of a cyber attack propaganda campaign which began with accusations that North Korea had attempted to sabotage Sony, reached peak absurdity when Penn State claimed Chinese spies had taken control of the campus engineering department, and turned serious when Washington blamed China for what was deemed "the largest theft of US government data ever." "Whether all of this is cause for the Pentagon to activate the 'offensive' component of its brand new cyber strategy remains to be seen," we said yesterday.

As it turns out, the Office of Personnel Management breach will indeed be used to justify a cyber "retaliation"against China, because as The New York Times notes, "the hacking attack was so vast in scope and ambition that the usual practices for dealing with traditional espionage cases [do] not apply." Here’s more:

The Obama administration has determined that it must retaliate against China for the theft of the personal information of more than 20 million Americans from the databases of the Office of Personnel Management, but it is still struggling to decide what it can do without prompting an escalating cyberconflict.


The decision came after the administration concluded that the hacking attack was so vast in scope and ambition that the usual practices for dealing with traditional espionage cases did not apply.


But in a series of classified meetings, officials have struggled to choose among options that range from largely symbolic responses — for example, diplomatic protests or the ouster of known Chinese agents in the United States — to more significant actions that some officials fear could lead to an escalation of the hacking conflict between the two countries.


That does not mean a response will happen anytime soon — or be obvious when it does. 

So the US will do something, it just doesn’t yet know what or when or even if anyone will notice, but one thing is clear: "this aggression will not stand, man."

The problem with "symbolic" responses is that they are merely, well, symbolic, and any real retaliation risks escalating the "cyberconflict." Then again, not doing anything also risks prompting an escalation:

But over recent days, both James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and commander of the military’s Cyber Command, have hinted at the internal debate by noting that unless the United States finds a way to respond to the attacks, they are bound to escalate.


Mr. Clapper predicted that the number and sophistication of hacking aimed at the United States would worsen "until such time as we create both the substance and psychology of deterrence."


This echoes the rhetoric from the DoD’s "cyber strategy" released in April which says that "deterrence is partially a function of perception [and] works by convincing a potential adversary that it will suffer unacceptable costs if it conducts an attack on the United States." 

For now at least, it looks like criminal charges are off the table. 

The Justice Department is exploring legal action against Chinese individuals and organizations believed responsible for the personnel office theft, much as it did last summer when five officers of the People’s Liberation Army, part of the Chinese military, were indicted on a charge of the theft of intellectual property from American companies. While Justice officials say that earlier action was a breakthrough, others characterize the punishment as only symbolic: Unless they visit the United States or a friendly nation, none of them are likely to ever see the inside of an American courtroom.


"Criminal charges appear to be unlikely in the case of the O.P.M. breach," a study of the Office of Personnel Management breach published by the Congressional Research Service two weeks ago concluded. "As a matter of policy, the United States has sought to distinguish between cyber intrusions to collect data for national security purposes — to which the United States deems counterintelligence to be an appropriate response — and cyber intrusions to steal data for commercial purposes, to which the United States deems a criminal justice response to be appropriate."

Instead, the US may look to remove the so called "great firewall" which Beijing uses to censor content it considers to be subversive or otherwise objectionable.

One of the most innovative actions discussed inside the intelligence agencies, according to two officials familiar with the debate, involves finding a way to breach the so-called great firewall, the complex network of censorship and control that the Chinese government keeps in place to suppress dissent inside the country. The idea would be to demonstrate to the Chinese leadership that the one thing they value most — keeping absolute control over the country’s political dialogue — could be at risk if they do not moderate attacks on the United States.

So perhaps there's a silver lining in all of this: China's 650 million internet users may, if only for a split second, be free to surf the web without the Politburo filter.

Of course if the US really wanted to do some cyber damage, the Pentagon could hack into China's National Bureau of Statistics and see what the country's real GDP figure looks like, and if that doesn't teach them a lesson, maybe the best option would be to breach China Securities Finance Corporation and hit the "sell" button. 

Finally, for those interested to monitor the global cyber war in real time, you can do so via Norsecorp by clicking on the following map.

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BullyBearish's picture

Embargo fortune cookies

Bindar Dundat's picture

Trouble is; an hour after a Chinese hack attack-- I  want to hack again.

Publicus's picture

USA: laughing stock of the world.

PrayingMantis's picture



...    .gov:  ... well, DARPA ... what have you got to say now ... YOU created this "internet" thing and it's coming back to haunt us ...

NoDebt's picture

Oh, it's not gonna be long before we send some "Kinetic Democracy" China's way.

"This thing will get out of hand.  It will get out of hand and we'll be lucky to live through it."

And, of course, the obligatory....  "I would like to have seen Montana"

0b1knob's picture

Put a retaliatory tariff of 10% on all Chinese imports.    More attacks mean 20%.   Then 30%.

Everybody wins.  Except the Chinese.

phoolish's picture

How about revoking "most favored nation status"



0b1knob's picture

Chinese paid Bill Clinton $100 million for most favored nation status.


Pickleton's picture

Not to mention all of our rocket and satellite tech.

7.62x54r's picture

The elite super hack China used consisted of the U.S. Gov giving a Chinese IT consultant in China root access in order maintain their server.

Outsourcing only works if you are not a retard.

Bad Attitude's picture

Send Kerry to China. I'm sure Kerry could get the Chinese to agree to stop hacking US computer systems. And, after the Chinese agree to stop hacking us, Obama could have a photo-op and give another speech nobody will listen to.

Forward (over the cliff)!

PT's picture

Dear US Govt

I have zero sympathy for US Govt and Corporations if they cannot protect themselves from Chinese Hackers, though I do not believe Chinese Hackers stole anything.  You know as well as the rest of the world knows that Chinese Hackers did not steal any western technology.  Western Corporations willingly gave up their secrets in return for cheap Chinese labour.

You guys willingly sent all of your manufacturing to China, willingly trained up Chinese programmers, willingly made life difficult for western computer programmers, and willingly imposed HUGE debt and education burdens on would-be computer programmers in the US and other western nations.   The people responsible for these atrocities are guilty of treason as they aided a foreign nation while willingly destroying their own nation.

As far as these Chinese "hacking" allegations go, you can eat shit and die.  Your accusations are of lesser credibility than "The dog ate my homework" ... with said "homework" being written in beef and gravy.

"Eeeek!  We can't protect ourselves from Chinese Hackers!"  WHY NOT???????  It was YOUR technology that YOU GAVE to them, while you then went on to crush your own people under a mountain of debt.  There are a number of things that you could have done differently and achieved better results for both you and China.  But you chose not to.  You shat in your own bed.  Now you have to sleep in it.

jaap's picture

so that was the reason that foolish viking map was in the press again few weeks ago (since it was gone for a year).



mendolover's picture

You mean from the US?  Haha!

TheFutureReset's picture

Great idea, fight statism with statism. /sarc

More govt can't fix this problem.

bid the soldiers shoot's picture

you got moar down arrows than China.

The Big Ching-aso's picture

I broke up with a Chinese girl once. She hacked my laundry after she took my dog for a wok.

bid the soldiers shoot's picture

It's hard to break up with a girl when your dog likes her.  

Did he start barking at you?

Bush Baby's picture

D id hackers gain access through Hillary's private server?

Surly Bear's picture

Bullshit. If they did do it then stop importing from China. Thought so.

monad's picture

Israeli contractors sold it to them.

drendebe10's picture

So decrees the fudgepacker...

90's Child's picture

Shouldn't Americans retaliate against the NSA and their breaching of our data?

kchrisc's picture


Liberty is a demand. Tyranny is submission.

nmewn's picture

No shit.

This is how fucked up it's gotten, the government is going to charge Lt.Cmdr.Timothy White with discharging his personal firearm on "federal property" in protection of his life and others for shooting at Joe Jihad (the Chattanooga shooter) who killed five unarmed military personnel.

Now, after lying about the Sony-North Korea incident and after not being able to protect OTHER government employees private information any better than they protected the lives of those in Chattanooga (BY ITS OWN ADMISSION!) they are going to poke China with a stick (maybe) and expect people like Lt.Cmdr.Timothy White to fight for them?

Fuck them.

kchrisc's picture

With respect, but after 9/11, Sandy Hook, Boston "Boom," and Paris, how do we even know that Chattanooga even really happened and that there is a Lt.Cmdr.Timothy White to be prosecuted?

I am not saying it's a false-flag, but hey, "They lie about everything. Why would they lie about this?"

Liberty is a demand. Tyranny is submission.


One motivation to fake it: The evangelical Christian and neocon supporting sheeple out in the Bible Belt are huge supporters of the military, and would take umbrage to one of their heroes being persecuted. Especially for a so-called gun offense.

nmewn's picture

With all due respect, the thing about false flags is .gov telling you what to believe has opposed to real people witnessing and saying what actually happened.

One can't be easily confirmed, the other one can, easily.

For example, in this particular case, .gov is saying China hacked GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES AND CONTRACTORS private information stored within government databases.

So the question becomes, is this true or false, do they provide poof!?

No, they don't ;-)

Reaper's picture

Barack is going to sell all the NSA data to improve our trade balance.

buzzkillb's picture

One of my clients was in the Bostom boom and he was in a hospital for a few months. I only found out about this because when I asked what happened to our client, the Architect mentioned what happened. This guy had absolutely no reason to stop paying everyone and disappear during that time period, I generally know how the money is coming to us for most projects. He also now walks with a cane, but I guess Willy Wonka did too.

Lurk Skywatcher's picture

No one disputes the when and the where. What is disputed is the how, the what, the why, and the who.

Its reasonable to expect that the maiming of innocent bystanders would result in a robust and thorough investigation.

Its not reasonable to assume an investigation was robust and thorough simply because it was reasonably expected to be.

Critical thinking - you should try it some time...




ebworthen's picture

We must sell them more Coca-Cola and fast food franchises!

We must buy more of their electronics and plastic shit!

They must buy more or our treasury bonds!

That'll teach 'em!

doctor10's picture

Somebody needs some FREEDOM coming their way!!

doctor10's picture

too much false indignation-the Fed.Gov was bent over the table by the guys buying their bonds

Someone let our creditors have our details-something most creditors demand anyway

and now Fed.Gov is crying "thief thief!!!"

Winston Churchill's picture

It wasn't China.

I confess, it was me

Just joking NSA watchers.

Ignatius's picture

Be serious.  America's enemies are everywhere, and if they aren't, we'll manufacture them.  And frankly, this move back into manufacturing in America is welcome and long overdo.

phoolish's picture

Manufacturing what?  Fiction?

UGrev's picture

Cyber wars are fucking hysterical.. it's like a fucking bitch fight. Bunch of fucking pussies anal fisting other pussies with 1's and 0's..  and I'm a software developer by profession.  Look, Obama.. if someone bitch slaps you, you don't get into a slapping, sissy fight with them..  you end it with a right cross and send the fucker to the ER. 

...fucking cyber fight... HA!

Arnold's picture

First roole Fight Crub!

No Talkie!

toady's picture

Kill... Kill... Kill...

fatlibertarian's picture

Just to illustrate the conspiratorial mind I have; Chances are it's our own network of hackers using China proxies to create the illusion of war so they can justify the future greater control over the internet, and perhaps, more wars. 


Nick Jihad's picture

Yeah, sounds conspiratotial all right. Of course, most of the things we thought the NSA would never do, Snowden revealed they were doing. Today, I lean toward thinking that, if they have the ability to do it, they're doing it.

The Big Ching-aso's picture

Chinese cyber attack........

They better hope the U.S doesn't find a chink in their firewall.

PT's picture


You could easily be right but Occam's Razor = It didn't happen.

See my post above - Corps willingly gave their secrets to China in return for cheap labour plus "The dog ate my homework" plus giving rope to the hangman while disarming and indebting their own would-be minders.

If you park your Ferrari in someone else's drive-way and give them the keys, is it still "theft"? ...

Sturm und Drang's picture

Can the US government get any more infantile?

Never One Roach's picture
(BBC): "Wikileaks: US 'spied on Japan government and companies'"


What are friends for if you can't spy on them?

Handful of Dust's picture

God darn it! I now know why my am/fm Radio Shack transistor radio doesn't work ... it's the Red Commies!


If we dont stop 'm now, who knows what they'll do next?! Cut our Netflix or sumthun!

kchrisc's picture

"The Cyber Wars Begin: Obama Says US "Must Retaliate" Against China For Historic Data Breach"

This week's humor a little late.

Liberty is a demand. Tyranny is submission.


Or put another way: Just fucking redonkulous.


The cocksucking American Government has hacked every country in the entire World with the NSA, USARMY PSYOPS, FBI, CIA, and probably a few other effing' acronyms those fucking sociopaths operate in secret until they get FUCKING caught, eh, motherfuckers.


Up yours, America. If you want to see aggression just keep pissing me off and I'll fill your cup to overflowing you lying sacks of shit.