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Red Lines in Cyberspace: The East Asian Arc

Military and political confrontation is growing in East Asia, including in the digital sphere.

Russia and China are faced with the need to join efforts in the field of cybersecurity.

Red Lines in Cyberspace: The East Asian Arc

Digitization - Advantage and Vulnerability

When we talk about the East Asian frontier of cyber confrontation, we primarily mean the so-called "East Asian arc" - a special geographic strip that originates in northeast Asia, runs along the Far Eastern borders of Russia, then approaches the eastern coast of China, then goes around it from the South, passes through the countries of Southeast Asia and then goes to the West, capturing the countries of South Asia - India and Sri Lanka, also affecting the Suez Canal zone and the most important maritime arteries for the delivery of Middle Eastern oil to the USA, Canada, Japan, China and others countries. The promotion by the West of the thesis on the so-called. The "Russian-Chinese threat" and its active introduction into the media environment of the East Asian zone seriously complicate the international situation in this zone and cyberspace along the East Asian arc, which plays a very significant role in world development.

Let's start with the fact that it is here that five of the seven world centers of high technologies are located or adjoin it. In the same zone, there is the densest concentration of manufacturers of information and communication systems, computer technology and equipment for the operation of mobile communications. It has the highest number of Internet users in the world. The Asian continent today occupies a dominant position in the global cyberspace. More than half of all Internet users live in Asian countries. Taking into account the rest of the world, the ratio for other indicators remains almost unchanged. Asia leads both in the number of personal computers and in the number of smartphones. Moreover, this indicator is constantly growing: the total number of subscribers to mobile Internet resources in the region has grown from 1,12 billion in 2014 to 1,41 billion in 2015 and 1,6 billion in 2016. Asian countries are also leaders in the number of Facebook social network members - almost 868 million users as of February 1, 2020. This number represents more than 50% of the total number of Facebook users worldwide (1 billion 679 million), and this figure continues to grow. This means that a significant number of residents of Asian countries are potential hostages of the manipulations of American IT giants. If we take into account the national social networks, then this figure will increase significantly; thus, Asia is ahead of Europe and the Americas in terms of this indicator. As a result, the Asian continent today has become an extremely important crossroads in the Eurasian cyberspace, where it plays an ever-increasing role in the development of the digital economy and e-commerce, as well as in the creation of a modern information society.

In order to provide the Asian continent and a gigantic army of network users with the necessary services, the region has created, perhaps, the most saturated and most energy-intensive, extensive service telecommunications infrastructure, which relies on technological developments and technical telecommunications equipment often obtained from China. This circumstance creates a number of advantages for the PRC that make it possible to control such a vast area as Asia.

At the same time, this circumstance makes the region very vulnerable to external invasion and destruction of the stable functioning of the telecommunication systems located in it, which makes the problem of cybersecurity in East Asia extremely relevant in the context of the constant and very acute confrontation between the United States and China in the field of ICT.           

General cybermobilization 

It should be added to this that this geographic zone is increasingly becoming a zone of growing military confrontation and tension between the United States and its allies, on the one hand, and the PRC and the Russian Federation, on the other. And this trend continues to grow. Moreover, the European allies of the United States are getting involved in the confrontation in the cyberspace of East Asia.

In addition to strengthening a purely military presence in the region, NATO countries are stepping up their activities in East Asian cyberspace, seeking to achieve unilateral advantages in the cyber environment. Cyber ​​troops in the Republic of Korea were established in 2009. In Japan, the cyber military appeared in 2013. In China, cyber troops were officially created in 2012, and in 2016 they became part of the Strategic Support Forces, which also includes the Aerospace Forces, missile forces and the Army Command Center. Russia was the last in this line of creators of "network troops". The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation announced its intention to create cyber defense units only in 2014.

Deputy Secretary General of the Alliance Mircea Joana said that NATO countries must maintain superiority in modern technologies, including in cyberspace, in order to ensure the safety of their citizens. At the same time, the NATO deputy secretary general did not hide the fact that the build-up of the Alliance's cyber superiority in East Asia was directed against China and Russia. “We need to make sure that we maintain the lead, that we have the best talent, the best universities and the best companies, as well as the best military in the world,” Joana said at the CYBERSEC European Cybersecurity Forum in Brussels on September 28, 2020.

He stressed that NATO countries must remain competitive in the field of new and advanced technologies, for this "constant and collective efforts are needed." “This is also the key to our security and the protection of our fundamental values: freedom, democracy and the rule of law,” said Gioana.

It is indicative in this regard that the command and control of the cyber troops of South Korea and Japan was structured according to the regulations of the United States and NATO, and the representatives of the South Korean Cyber ​​Command and the Japanese Cyber ​​Security Center underwent retraining in the Tallinn Cyber ​​Defense Guide, a NATO structure. created to conduct cyber operations against Russia and its partners. To this it should be added that the United States is actively saturating this zone with weapons of mass destruction, deploying medium-range missiles and creating missile defense systems deployed in South Korea and Japan. In addition, the Pentagon is creating a new naval grouping in this Pacific zone and conducting joint naval exercises with NATO allies. At the same time, their organizers do not hide the fact that the exercises are directed against China. Along with the growth of military pressure and military threats and risks, the number of aggressive cyber operations against the PRC and the Russian Federation is increasing, which are often carried out, including from the territories of countries located in the zone of the East Asian arc. In this regard, it is appropriate to recall that in the summer of 2020, during the all-Russian vote on amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, a massive DDoS attack was carried out against the computer center of the Central Election Commission of Russia. The attack was made from the United States, Great Britain and ... Singapore. The attack on the CEC servers took place at a time when the CEC was busy analyzing and processing the voting results. CEC specialists repelled and neutralized the attack.

Cyberattacks on Russia and China continue, and energy structures and financial institutions are becoming targets of such attacks. The danger of such actions is obvious.

At the same time, one should not forget that a cyber attack with the use of combat viruses has a powerful, serious multiplier effect. A cyber strike against one country can very quickly lead to negative consequences in another state. In this regard, it is useful to recall the consequences of the use of military viruses against Iran (the decision on the cyberattack was made personally by US President Barack Obama). In June 2010, an American computer virus called Stuxnet hit Iran's Natanz nuclear power plant. This event also meant that it was time for information wars. Stuxnet infected over 60000 computers, more than half of which were in Iran; the rest of the affected countries include India, Indonesia, China, Azerbaijan, North Korea, Malaysia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Finland and Germany.

Over the past year, the danger of a repeat of similar attacks by the Americans has grown. Before leaving the Oval Office, former US President Donald Trump signed a decree stating that a decision at the level of the President of the country is no longer required to launch a cyber strike on the enemy, it is sufficient for the decision to use combat viruses to be made at the level of the leadership of the CIA, NSA or the Pentagon, which dramatically increases the risks of cyber wars in the modern information space. 

Russia and China - a single cyber front? 

Thus, summing up the above, let us note that in the conditions of the West inflating the thesis about the "Russian-Chinese threat", the confrontation in the cyberspace of East Asia and the involvement of the countries - members of the North Atlantic Alliance in it will only grow. At the same time, there will be a growing threat to cooperation between Russia and China in creating a digital economy, as well as plans to form a single cyber platform for the development of cooperation in the vast Eurasian space. on the implementation of the Chinese concept "one belt - one road" and the Russian program for the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union.

Such a development of events inevitably poses the task of joining efforts to ensure cybersecurity throughout the Eurasian zone and creating a Russian-Chinese joint structure, possibly in the form of a Joint Center for Early Detection and Counteraction to Computer Risks and Threats. The international legal framework for this already exists in the form of the Russian-Chinese agreement on cooperation in the field of international information security of May 8, 2015. It contains provisions not only for the exchange of useful information in this area. And also about practical interaction to protect cybersecurity in the area of ​​mutual responsibility. Considering that in 2011 Russia and China signed a multilateral agreement on cooperation of the SCO member states in the field of information security, which entered into force on June 2, 2011, we can talk about the creation of a joint structure within the SCO, similar to the RATS, with placement in one of the countries that make up the Organization. Considering that our countries are currently engaged in pairing the Chinese initiative "one belt - one road" and the Russian project to create the Eurasian Economic Union, as well as the fact that our countries have expressed their desire to cooperate in the field of creating a digital economy and creating a digital development platform economic interaction in the vast Eurasian space, strengthening cooperation between Beijing and Moscow in the field of cybersecurity is becoming inevitable. To this they are pushed by the objective situation and those red lines that appear along the eastern borders of the two countries.

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