In March of this year, a number of American websites began getting flooded with traffic in what is called Distributed Denial of Service, or DDoS, attacks.
These attacks are said to have come from China, which has reportedly developed a way to use its Great Firewall Internet filter to redirect massive amounts of traffic to its targets. Could this be the beginning of what will eventually become a cyberwar?
The Great Cannon, which is what a recent report has dubbed China's new tool, essentially allows China to intercept traffic from foreign countries, and then repurpose that traffic using malicious code. The system was used to intercept Web traffic from China's most popular search engine Baidu, and this traffic was then used to attack GitHub, a website for developers, and GreatFire.org, a company that runs mirror websites of websites that are blocked in China.
Researchers of the website suggest, however, that the development could have far greater implications. It could be used, for example, to essentially spy on anyone who gets content from a Chinese server, even those who visit a non-Chinese website that happens to run an ad hosted in China.
The new weapon is reportedly very similar to one developed by the National Security Agency and the British equivalent, the GCHQ. Details about these systems were leaked by Edward Snowden, a former NSA employee who leaked hundreds of documents about NSA practices. The similarities between this Chinese weapon and those developed by the NSA put the American government in an awkward situation because of the fact that it removes a lot of the credibility behind any complaints that the U.S. government could make.
The weapon certainly makes China ready for a cyberattack should a "cyberwar" of any kind begin. It is also likely being used by the Chinese government as a way to warn U.S. websites not to get involved with China's censorship laws.
China has said in recent times that it plans to give Chinese companies more of a chance in China before it begins opening up and allowing American companies such as Google and Facebook to operate in China.
Despite this, China's move against American companies might end up being Chinese companies' downfall, considering the public perception of China's web presence. This will be especially true if Chinese Web companies start to expand outside China.
Only time will tell if these weapons will end up being used in a "cyberwar." However, it certainly seems as though the situation is escalating as time goes.