The great cyber triangle of US-Russia-China seems to be shaping up in a definitive way. For a while China was technologically and skill-wise behind the US and Russia, the two early leaders in cyberspace, but it’s catching up, and fast.
It was announced last week that Kaspersky Lab and Symantec have been taken off the list of approved vendors in China’s government cybersecurity software market. Reuters recently reported one example: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/03/us-china-software-ban-idUSKBN0G30QH20140803
Traditionally very polite, the Chinese did not cyberwhine, did not make any fuss, did not lay any blame, but simply took the pair off the list. Some Western and Russian analysts were very quick to assume and announce that this was a trade protectionist move to favor China’s national cybersecurity companies. That’s definitely wrong. If that were true, China would bar foreign companies from the country altogether – their private market is huge and very profitable. But they didn’t; they specifically only addressed their government cyberspace security. Apparently Chinese cyber experts found some extracurricular activities in products from both companies, which is not terribly surprising. Furthermore, they probably realized that detecting all the malware in modern software is practically impossible, and correctly decided to keep the foreign security well-wishers away, at least from their government.
The Chinese perception of individual privacy is different from the Western, and they don’t seem to be very concerned about the privacy of the regular common users, at least currently. However, they will probably watch Kaspersky’s and Symantec’s products sold to the Chinese private sector very carefully from now on. If they detect any sizeable collection of data from customers’ computers they will probably bar Kaspersky, Symantec, or both from doing business in China altogether.
The great cyber triangle is definitely becoming more and more equilateral. Interestingly, for the first time that I can recall, China is taking the lead in a trend that is logical and most likely to continue.