On July 22, Dr. James Mulvenon delivered a lively discussion of US-Chinese cyber relations as the keynote speaker for the Hoover Institution’s 2015 Workshop on Totalitarian Regimes. His lecture described the overwhelming threat of cyber attack against America currently originating in China, and revealed information about counterterrorism measures being taken by the US government against foreign hackers. Mulvenon is senior vice-president of Defense Group Incorporated’s Intelligence Division, as well as cofounder and director of its Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis. A Chinese linguist and a specialist on the Chinese military, he is a leading international expert on cyber espionage issues, surveillance, cryptology, and strategic weapons programs. He is also an editor of the Hoover Institution’s China Leadership Monitor. Mulvenon studied Communist Party History at Fudan University in Shanghai, and received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles. While working on his dissertation, Mulvenon utilized the Chinese collections housed at Hoover Library & Archives. In 2013 he co-authored Chinese Industrial Espionage, which is the first full account, inside or outside government, of the complete range of China’s efforts to illicitly acquire foreign technology.
Comparing present cyber conditions to social theorist Jeremy Bentham’s famed eighteenth century panopticon prison, Mulvenon explained that the Internet has created a twenty-first century surveillance state that from its beginning has lacked the security to protect sensitive information. Early Internet developers at the Research and Development (RAND) Corporation, Mulvenon argued, did not anticipate the scope and power of the network they were constructing, and cyber attacks on the United States began as early as 1999. In recent years, China has become the primary threat to cyber security in America, launching what Mulvenon referred to as an online espionage campaign of “planetary scale.” Opposing US hegemony and advocating Internet governance by the United Nations, China has enforced state-sponsored hacking aimed against both the US government and large American corporations. Unfortunately, American policy and regulation efforts have not been able to keep up with foreign threats; each day the reaches of online mobility, social media, and cloud technology outpace security measures.
Drawing from his own research and experience as an intelligence advisor, Mulvenon detailed the current counterespionage efforts being utilized in the United States. Mulvenon explained that the while the US government is constantly working to upgrade its encryption efforts, it has also incorporated the use of “honey nets”: false information strategically planted in files that are then allowed to be hacked by outside sources. Without the certainty of files’ reliability, hackers’ intellectual property theft loses value. In his concluding words, Mulvenon encouraged audience members to pay close attention to the encryption and protection of their own personal information, and to advocate for policies and measures that will limit security leaks and counteract large-scale cyber attacks sponsored by foreign countries.
Click the play button to listen to a recording of Dr. James Mulvenon’s lecture
For more information about the Workshop on Totalitarian Regimes, please contact the workshop coordinator, Bronweyn Coleman: bronweyn [at] stanford.edu.