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US Demands Answers from China Over ‘Great Cannon’ Cyberattacks

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The US is asking Chinese authorities to look into reports that China interfered with online content hosted outside of the country using its so-called Great Cannon, State Department spokesperson Jeff Rathke said on Friday.

The Great Cannon is a tool that can hijack traffic to or from individual IP addresses and allows China to target foreign computers that communicate with any website based in China, according to a report by Reuters.

Researchers in Toronto said the Great Cannon represents “a significant escalation in state-level information control: the normalization of widespread use of an attack tool to enforce censorship by weaponizing users.” It can manipulate international web traffic intended for Chinese web companies and redirect malicious traffic to US sites, Rathke said.

“So the United States is committed to protecting the internet as an open platform on which all people can innovate, learn, organize, communicate, free from censorship or interference. And we believe a global, interoperable, secure, and reliable internet is essential to realizing this objective. And we view attacks by malicious cyber actors who target critical infrastructure or US companies and US consumers as threats to national security and to the economy of the United States,” Rathke said.

“We have asked Chinese authorities to investigate this activity and provide us with the results of their investigation. At the same time, we’re working with all willing partners to enhance cyber security, promote norms of acceptable state behavior in cyber space, and to protect the principle of freedom of expression online.”

The US response comes as Russia and China have signed a cybersecurity deal wherein the two countries agree not to conduct cyberattacks against each other. The pact also includes the two countries agreeing to “exchange information between law enforcement agencies, exchange technologies and ensure security of information infrastructure,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

In March, the non-profit group GreatFire.org was hit by a sustained DDoS attack that served 2500 times its normal traffic. The organization said that the attack “is an exhibition of censorship by brute force.”

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About the Author

Nicole Henderson is the Editor in Chief of the WHIR, where she covers daily news and features online. She has a bachelor of journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto. You can find her on Twitter @NicoleHenderson.

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