Chinese Hackers Now Switching Sides To Join Security Industry
China has been accused for years by the US of hacking the computers, servers and websites of other countries, and it‘s believed that a large number of hacking attempts originate from the country. But not all Chinese hackers have their sights set on infiltrating the web.
Chinese companies have suffered from an increasing number of internal cyber attacks, but many hackers are now finding that joining the country’s cyber security industry is a lucrative way to make money. There are lots of hackers that began learning the trade while they were still in high school, but have now changed their ways to help the country rather than give it a bad name. One is Zhang Tianqi, who began working at Alibaba Group Holding Ltd before rising to be chief technology officer of a security company which owns Vulbox.com and FreeBuf.com. Vulbox offers rewards for people who submit software vulnerabilities that they’ve found themselves. Zhang has said that he messed around in his early years, but there is now a trend in China which takes information security much more seriously than before.
Xi Jinping, President of China, has stated that cyber security is now a national priority, as quick economic growth has left the country without growth in data protection departments. China’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team recently released data revealing that it had recorded 9068 data leaks last year, which is three times more than 2013. This highlights the challenged of the cyber security industry in within the country.
New cyber security firms are now popping up all across the country, filled with young technology workers who have security experience from working at places like Tencent Holdings Ltd and Baidu Inc. China is hoping that domestic companies will one day replace foreign security firms to provide the country with hacking defenses.
China’s ‘bedroom hackers’ are now becoming professionals, and this is correlated with the fast progression of the country’s economic and technological advancements. The US government has accused state-affiliated hacking teams of carrying out large and progressive attacks, such as that which stole sensitive data from the Office of Personnel Management last month. However, many former Chinese hackers are saying that their colleagues are now joining forces with Chinese firms to help protect the country from the hacking challenges that it faces itself.
China has denied the attacks on the OPM and says that it knows nothing of them. The Cyberspace Administration of China has stated that it doesn’t allow individuals or groups to attack networks from within Chinese borders, and the US government has been in talks with China about the increasing threat from hackers.
Five years ago the Chinese government decided to crack down on the country‘s hacking community. At this time, Beijing also banned hacking and spamming tools through a number of laws, bringing telecom operators on board to help prevent attacks. This crackdown has made online hacking forums into quiet places, where people once shared tips and tricks they now lie dormant. Instead of focusing on the dark side of hacking, many of the people chose to join security firms or work individually on finding network and software vulnerabilities that could be reported and patched. Chinese hackers are finding that working on the ‘white hat’ side of activities is more lucrative than the ‘black hat’ side, and they can help the country while malicious hackers are prosecuted.
The Chinese government is also working to improve the cyber security of the country, independently of country’s largest companies who are looking to improve their own defenses. The Cyberspace Administration of China is trying to educate people and companies about how important data security is. Even so, it will be a long time before China can fully protect itself from international threats. Although the finger is often pointed at the country for hacking attempts in other countries, it has huge numbers of attacks to deal with itself. Government maritime agencies, shipping companies and research institutions have all withstood years of attacks, and it may be many more years before China’s cyber security industry can measure up to the same level as the US.