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State bolsters online security

Cao Yin
Updated: Jan 5,2015 7:23 AM     China Daily

People surf the Internet in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, on Nov 20, as the first World Internet Conference entered its second day.[Photo/China Daily]

National strategy rolled out to deal with cyberthreats both at home and abroad

With one of the world’s largest online and mobile communities, China is facing increasing pressure to beef up its cybersafety.

From March to May, more than 50,000 attacks from at least 2,000 Internet protocol addresses in the United States were launched on Chinese computers.

The backdoor attacks, which bypass authentication systems to access computers and data, were carried out using nearly 2,000 Chinese websites.

The figures from the National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team Coordination Center, China’s cybersecurity monitoring agency, highlight the increasing importance of Internet security in a country with one of the largest digital communities.

To deal with growing threats online and protect the country’s interests, cybersecurity has been upgraded to a national strategy.

In February, President Xi Jinping gave orders for a central Internet security and informatization leading group, which he will personally head, to deal with these issues at the top level.

During a conference on the group, the president said cybersecurity involved not just a country’s security and development, but also the lives of its people.

China’s online population reached at least 632 million by the end of June 2014 and mobile Internet users totaled 527 million, figures from research organization China Internet Network Information Center showed.

The latest figures from the country’s network monitoring center also showed that, from January to October 2014, at least 8.79 million Chinese computers had been infected or controlled by online threats such as Trojans and botnets.

Of these computers, more than 90 percent were attacked from overseas.

Earlier last year, The New York Times reported that the US National Security Agency had hacked into computers of Huawei and other telecommunication giants such as China Telecom, with documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showing the extent of US online spying worldwide.

In line with the upgraded national strategy to deal with such threats, the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s Internet watchdog, is gearing up to boost security.

Security checks on information technology products and services will be imposed. Foreign and domestic IT goods, services and suppliers of information systems related to national security and the public interest must be reviewed if they want access to the Chinese market.

Ni Guangnan, an academician at the China Academy of Engineering and a top computer scientist, said the information systems used by government departments urgently need these moves.

Wang Jun, chief engineer at the China Information Technology Security Evaluation Center, said that these will also help Chinese technology and network giants improve their products and services.

“Many countries have enforced such a review,” Wang said, citing the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as an example.

The committee conducted a security investigation on Chinese IT companies in 2012 and finally forced Huawei to exit the US network equipment market, he said.

Although details of the policy have yet to be released, Yang Chunyan, deputy director of the cybersecurity bureau at the administration, said in November that studies on the issue are being pushed forward.

Bigger role

During the inaugural World Internet Conference in Zhejiang province, Premier Li Keqiang also said that the country wants to promote an interconnected world shared by all.

Internet analysts said the comments pointed to China’s evolving role in global cyberspace-from participant to leader.

Li Yuxiao, a specialist of Internet governance and law at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, said that the country has demonstrated its confidence and boldness in the development of cyberspace.

It is time for China to realize its responsibilities in cyberspace and it is necessary for it to find a role in the development of the Internet, Li said.

“I’m glad that we’ve upgraded cybersecurity to a national strategy. We have to set our Internet goal first and think about what strategy to take before moving on to refine our laws.”

Shen Yi, an associate professor of cybersecurity at Fudan University, said the nation should have a voice in the world as its economy grows.

“We need a detailed plan,” Shen said, suggesting that the government clarify its plans within three years.

“As we move into policy, we’re also calling on residents to enhance awareness of cybersecurity protection,” Yang said, citing the first China Cybersecurity Week event from Nov 24 to 30.

Home ground

To that effect, the country is stepping up efforts to regulate and enhance its own Internet environment, targeting online rumors, pornography, violence and terrorism-related information.

Since June, a nationwide campaign against online terrorism-related videos and audio content has been conducted under the administration’s order.

Websites must provide a platform for gathering information from the public and whistleblowers, with awards of up to 100,000 yuan ($16,000) for tipoffs.

Increasingly popular instant messaging platforms are also being covered. By July, the number of people using these reached nearly 460 million, about 28.42 million more than in 2013, China Internet Network Information Center figures showed.

In August, authorities issued a rule targeting platforms like WeChat, which has more than 400 million registered users. It required users to register with real identities and tightened access to public accounts.

Under the latest rules, netizens must also provide their real names and mobile phone numbers when applying for a WeChat account, but they can still use nicknames in messaging and posting.

Similarly, a guideline for smartphone applications that also covers app stores has been on the administration’s agenda since November.

Lu Wei, director of the Cyberspace Administration of China, vowed to accelerate Internet-related legislation and said that the rule of law, raised by the leadership during the Fourth Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, should be worked into cyberspace.

Foreign IT products and websites for the Chinese market must similarly abide by the country’s laws, Lu said at an October news conference. Those form the bottom line and aim to protect the country’s security, he said.

The administration has been studying Internet-related laws, putting priority on cybersecurity in line with the national strategy, Lu said.

Sound bites

“Sometimes, an accident is not caused by a low-quality car or bumpy road. A person with bad driving skills can be behind it. Surfing the Internet is the same. Netizens’ security awareness is like bad driving. If it is not up to standard, our cybersecurity will suffer.”

-- Zhao Zeliang, director of the cybersecurity bureau at the Cyberspace Administration of China

“When online users believe their online privacy is protected and enjoy a sense of security, they will spend more time using Internet applications and technology developed by us. Ensuring the safety and security of cyberspace is a basic condition for developing the Internet.”

-- Zhou Hongyi, chairman and CEO of Qihoo 360 Technology

“I prefer to store all my information on a mobile hard drive rather than use iCloud, although the latter is more advanced and convenient. Storing such material online worries me because it could be leaked.”

-- Zhou Wei, 26, who works for a company publishing articles on instant messaging platforms

“As the Internet gets more convenient, it can also provide a dangerous platform for terrorists. We don’t have agreements or effective measures to protect ourselves fully against online terror attacks. We need to enhance international cooperation, enact laws to crack down on online terrorism and devote more time to big data analysis. Training more counterterrorism professionals is also important.”

-- Cheng Lin, president of the People’s Public Security University of China

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