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A cyber Cold War brews quietly

During the Cold War, the Soviets and Americans engaged in an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse intelligence over a period of decades, careful not to let flare-ups at the periphery of their respective blocs escalate into a global “hot war.”

world Updated: Dec 27, 2011 01:02 IST

During the Cold War, the Soviets and Americans engaged in an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse intelligence over a period of decades, careful not to let flare-ups at the periphery of their respective blocs escalate into a global “hot war.”

Is the US now engaging in a similar game of cat-and-mouse with the Chinese, this time played out on the periphery of the Internet?

After all, the Chinese have successfully hacked into the US Chamber of Commerce, using a complex operation that involved more than 300 points of attack. Spies, albeit online, and stolen documents, while digital, are signals of a new era of cyberwarfare that is strangely reminiscent of the old Cold War.

The hacking of the US Chamber of Commerce is merely one in a series of known infiltrations.

Yet, the US is now being forced to overlook intrusions into the inner workings of the Internet. The Chinese are so central to the structure and functioning of the global economy that the US and other countries are forced to turn a blind eye to these routine intrusions, while presumably ramping up their own black hat operations against the Chinese and out of the average American’s sight.

And this “Cyber Cold War” is not just between the Chinese and the Americans. In the Arab world earlier this year, protesters and governments engaged in an elaborate game of Internet intelligence and counter-intelligence.

The analog Cold War is over, but the digital Cold War has quietly slipped in to take its place.

In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post