In the Autumn of 1999, I joined a Hong Kong friend for the amazing “K98” train trip from Hong Kong north through the heart of China to Beijing, just in time for the 50th Anniversary celebration of the People’s Republic of China. It was my version of Paul Theroux’s “Riding the Iron Rooster,” and the images of China at that time still stick in my head. Since then China has changed so dramatically that those images no longer exist. Since Deng Xiaoping declared that “getting rich is glorious,” and China’s growth has skyrocketed, China’s domestic and international problems have also multiplied.
Anonymous, the murky global and leaderless hacking group has struck out on a campaign to disrupt ISIS’ sophisticated use of the Internet and social media. It claims to have disabled over 11,000 identified ISIS Twitter accounts with looped Rick Astley videos. For those of you not familiar with Rick Astley, he was a 1980’s British pop star of limited talent, whose videos are sometimes painful to watch. For unknown reasons, Astley’s videos have been used in a variety of online pranks and hacking incidents. So Anonymous did the convenient thing and used old Astley videos, a tactic now known as “RickRolling”, to disrupt and confound ISIS Twitter and other social media accounts. I like it. Striking back in this way is probably causing smiles in the French Intelligence Service, U.S. Defense Department, NSA, and GCHQ in the UK.
In a somewhat surprising article this weekend, Wall Street Journal investigative reporters Rebecca Smith and Cameron McWhirter have reported on the sorry saga of efforts to create allegedly “clean coal” in Mississippi. This is one of those topics that one would expect the Wall Street Journal to crow about, as it is part of the Murdoch Fox News Empire. What better than another great story about how American technology is once again conquering a challenge by make coal clean and affordable, like in the television ads….? But when the evidence does not add up, the Murdoch minions can reinvent the story as an indictment of government policy and waste. This story has obvious implications for the continued reliance on coal in China and the United States, and the associated problems with carbon emissions from the tar sands in Alberta.
the New York Times published a Breaking News Alert on a story written by three of the best NYT investigative journalists. The four page detailed article, “Chinese Army Unit Is Seen as Tied to Hacking Against U.S.,” provides extraordinary detailed evidence. The breadth and depth of the cyber attacks on the United States go back as far as 2006, and the article describes attacks on numerous industries and hundreds of U.S. companies. Most concerning, there is now compelling evidence of near-miss attacks seeking means to disable our critical infrastructure. There has been much talk about our vulnerability, but until this NYT article nothing has so explicitly exposed our risk to cyber attack from the Chinese military. For me, one of the more interesting details was that the source of the attacks was a PLA building in Shanghai.