Net security proves difficult task

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To keep China from remaining one of the countries in the world most defenseless against hackers and cyber crimes, a leading Chinese Internet security expert pledged to establish a national administration charged with strengthening security in cyberspace.

China now has no single agency carrying that responsibility. The tasks of combating cyber crimes and maintaining Internet hardware are instead entrusted to at least three ministries.

Fang Binxing, 50, president of the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, told China Daily that the Ministry of Public Security is the agency in charge of cracking down on cyber crimes, while the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology oversees the construction of hardware used in the Internet industry.

"China lacks a national means of coordinating cyber security affairs," Fang said. "The current cyber security office under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is of such a low-level that it can't coordinate those related government agencies."

And the ministry's National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team (CNCERT) is mainly responsible for monitoring national public networks.

In contrast, many developed countries are highly aware of the need for cyber security. Some have even set up cyber-war headquarters.

Ranked by the weakness of its cyberspace security, China is second only to the United States, where hackers have taken control of more computers than anywhere else in the world, said Fang, who is also an Internet security expert with the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a forerunner in originating the country's Internet security endeavors.

Reports indicate that cyber crimes are rampant in China. Of all the hacked computers in Asia, 71 percent are in this country, according to a report issued by an Australian cyber company.

Those who hack into computers in China often try to enrich themselves by deploying online viruses that allow them to steal users' information or take control of computers remotely.

In another report, released by the CNCERT on Wednesday, the team said it had detected 480,000 Internet Protocol addresses that used a virus in 2010 to control computers in the Chinese mainland. Of those, 221,000 were stationed abroad.

The CNCERT said in its report that China faces even graver threats to its cyber security in 2011, since more attacks are being made on Internet hardware and networks used in finance, security, communications, customs and taxation.

A similar report issued by Beijing-based Rising, Asia's largest anti-virus software producer, said that nearly all internal networks used by Chinese firms have been attacked at least once during the past year, and hackers managed to take control of at least 85 percent of them.

Undermining China's cyber security has been its reliance on foreign computer software and hardware. China has few patents on such products.

Fang encouraged the use of cyber identities as a means of combating cyber crimes.

He said cyber identities should be directly connected with the physical ID cards issued by public security authorities.

"This will not infringe on privacy, since the numerical codes you obtain as passwords for cyber surfing will not reveal who you are to the Web operators," Fang said. "Only the public security departments, which now issue ID cards, can see who you are, and then only when they are investigating a crime."

He made the remarks on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC).

Cyber security has become an important topic of discussion in recent years in China, whose cyber population of 450 million is the largest in the world. Other countries have similar concerns. Germany has already issued cyber identities to every Net surfer, and the United States is mulling over the same plan.

Zeng Zhanping, an NPC deputy who is also a major general, made a motion calling for strengthening Internet security by bringing together experts now doing such work for the civil and military sectors.

In an interview with China National Radio, Zeng, a leading member of the Chinese military's information project panel, said ensuring the security of computer users in cyberspace has become more difficult as the Internet has become more common in China.

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