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War with computers

Congressman Mike Rogers speaks to Rotary about cyber espionage

Congressman Mike Rogers spoke about cyber war with Oxford Rotary on Oct. 9. Photo by Trevor Keiser. (click for larger version)
October 17, 2012 - Where the fear of war with other countries used to be solely based upon who had the best "fire power" and military forces, now must be accompanied with who has the best computer hacker and computer virus defense systems.

According to Congressman Mike Rogers, a republican who represent the 8 district, and is also chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (PSCI) said cyber warfare is a reality of the current day.

"It's just something in the new age we're going to have to watch for," he said "We used be that big dominant player in the world (and) we didn't have to think about these kinds of things."

Rogers, spoke about the recent committee report of Chinese Cyber Espionage at the Oct. 9 Oxford Rotary Club luncheon, held at Oxford Hills Golf and Country Club.

According to the report, Rogers, and his committee are recommending U.S. Companies to seek telecommunication vendors other than Chinese Powerhouses ZTE and Huawei. Rogers said both companies have strong ties to the Chinese government, who is trying to get into the United States infrastructure and backbone as it relates to telecommunications.

"China now is the leading nation state when it comes to cyber espionage (and) stealing information off your computers," he said. "They (the committee) believe when you tally up the numbers, that they have stolen about a trillion dollars in intellectual property."

How do you put a value on it? Rogers gave an example of company that recently spent the past 10 years and a billion dollars of their own money developing a specific product that had a defense possibility to it.

"It had to do with material strength," he said. "They thought they had gotten this product on the next generation of really strong material."

Rogers said imagine prior to commercializing the product, receiving a knock on the door from two FBI agents who are the bearer of bad news and tell them that the Chinese has been on their (computer) networks for more than two years and have stolen all their intellectual property.

"You think how damaging that is and then you multiply that by thousands of thousands times a day," he said. "What they've (the Chinese) done through their intelligence services and their military is develop a capability to come into networks all over the world. Both Europe and other Asian nations, and the United States to try and steal our intellectual capital, repurpose it and compete against us in the world."

Through the course of their investigation the intelligence committee also found a bunch of other bad activity, including, bribery, corruption and visa fraud. Rogers said the information was provided to them by way of current and former Huawei employees, as well as foreign intelligence partners from Australia, Britain, and Canada. He also noted that the reason why the Huawei and ZTE's products are so much cheaper is due to copyright infringement.

"In other words they have no respect for other people's work in how to develop a router or even the software," he said.

According to Rogers there are public reports that the two Chinese companies stole an entire software and hardware package from a company called Cisco Systems Inc. He said the Chinese companies copied it so closely that their manuals had the same typos that were in Cisco Systems.

"You have to try pretty hard to get that book right," he said.

Rogers believes the reason why Huawei and ZTE are selling their routers and their products at such a cheaper price is so both American companies as well as others will buy them and then China will gain access to control the information. Up to this point he said neither company has disproved that they are trying to gain access into American markets.

Rogers said the United States needs to be more vigilant in its efforts against such things.

"When we see bad behavior we have to say we see bad behavior," he added. "We need to point out the bad actors."

So far said Rogers, Australia has banned both Chinese companies from participating in the government internet broadband. Great Britain has already let them in, but they are trying to mitigate through a third party, which Rogers hopes will work for them.

The Chinese are the best at stealing information and repurposing it against the United States, but they aren't the only ones doing it, he said. The Russians and Iran are doing it as well. Rogers described both the Chinese and the Russians as "rational actors," but he called Iran an "irrational actor."

"Iran is building its capabilities cyber wise at a rate that keeps me up at night because they are not a rational actor," he said. "There have been public reports that they've already tried to take out bank of America."

"If they're ever successful they don't care if there are ramifications. They're not going to stop and say 'if I do this there will be consequences,' he continued. "They are just going to do that and it will have unbearable consequences for us, we'll have huge economic problems. You can imagine the chaos that ensues."

Whether it's banking and finance systems, power grids, to natural gas, oil, water systems, or shipping and railing channels, all is controlled by computerized systems.

"You don't have to get too far into this and start thinking, this is really dangerous stuff. If you do it on a mass scale, you got chaos," he said. "That's why this is so dangerous, that's why folks like me have been trying to talk about this in a way that I hope people get a little fired up about it."

Rogers did note that a bi-partisan bill that would fight against cyber warfare attacks passed the 20- member intelligence committee without a "no" vote, which Rogers said is unheard of. Then it passed the House of Representatives where 42 Democrats joined in, but is currently stuck in the senate.

Afterwards, the floor was opened up for question and answer. Representative of the Brad Jacobson said he had heard of foreign students stealing secrets right out of universities and asked Rogers what he thought about foreign students coming over and the security lapses that might be there?

Statistic wise, Rogers said only 25 percent of United States Citizens is getting their doctorate in something close to a "cyber security degree." The other 75 percent are foreigners.

"We are getting our fannies handed to us and it's not just that," he said. "When you look at masters and PHD programs on all degrees of science, we (We being U.S. Citizens) are in the minority."

Rotarian James Sherman Sr. asked if China was a threat not only economically, but militarily as well. Rogers said in 1989 China started increasing 13 percent per year on military development and modernization.

"We pay our soldiers a professional wage, they do not. So, there money wasn't going to supply their military, or at least not their men and women in uniform. It was all going to hardware and modernization and they developed some concerning things," he said. "They've doubled the number of quiet submarines that are very difficult to track and they have for the first time come out and said 'we don't want the U.S. Fleet in the South China Sea.'"

Rogers said they've been stationed in the South China Seas since President Thomas Jefferson declared the United States as a "Blue Water Navy," which is to protect our ability to sell goods and services anywhere in the world.

"Forty percent of the world's trade goes through the South China Sea," he said. "The fact they thought they could just come out and say that was a bit of a slap in the face and very concerning."

He also said China has stated that they want to build a navy that can compete with the United States Navy anywhere in the world.

"They are a couple years behind us," he said. "We're still the world's greatest navy, but you can tell they are filling their oats a little bit (and) it's concerning."

Sherman also asked who the allies to the United States are. Rogers said in Asia they are seeing some very traditional foes turning into traditional allies such as South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Australia. Indonesia, he said they still have challenges and they are trying to develop relationship with India.

Another Rotarian asked about the relationship with Philippians Rogers said they've had some strained relationships with them but are trying to make amends. Rogers said he's a big believer that they need to make as many friends as they can in the Asian region.

"Building relationships with allies, loyalty for loyalty, it's an old time tested diplomatic approach," he said. "It's nothing new and exciting but it works. We need to be loyal to our friends."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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