Experts warn over online leaking of State secrets
Updated: 2014-05-09 03:45
By CAO YIN and ZHAO LEI (China Daily)
Two cases involving leaked State and military secrets reported within a week have exposed the challenges of managing such information in the rapidly developing Internet age, according to security analysts.
The Chinese public must be aware of the increasing risk of online disclosure, said Pei Zhiyong, a network security specialist at Qihoo 360, one of China's largest technology enterprises.
Easy accessibility to high-speed networks could allow the intentional or unintentional release of key information, including political, military and financial data, Pei said.
"Online disclosure will damage a nation's security. The faster the Internet develops, the harder it will be to keep secrets," said Pei, adding that most leaks of key information now occur online.
On Thursday, Beijing police detained a woman named Gao Yu for allegedly leaking State secrets to foreign contacts, while three days ago, a man surnamed Li in Guangdong province was convicted of releasing military secrets through the Internet.
Gao, 70, a Beijing resident and former journalist, is suspected of illegally obtaining a highly confidential central government document and leaking it to an overseas website in June last year. The document was later widely distributed on foreign websites, according to the police statement on the case.
Gao confessed to acquiring a copy of the document from others before making a digital version and sending it to the managers of the foreign website, the statement said.
She was sentenced to six years in prison in 1993 for leaking State secrets to overseas institutions, the statement added.
On Monday, the Guangdong provincial department of State security confirmed that Li had helped a foreign spy nicknamed "Brother Fei" to collect military secrets. It said Li was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing military information.
The department said Li sent the military secrets to the spy via the Internet after he visited military facilities in the southern province, adding that more than 70 percent of cases involving the theft of State secrets involved the release of information online.
Pei, the security expert, said some companies have introduced technical measures to deal with online disclosure, such as checking employees' work e-mails and building online databases for filtering key business information.
"But that can only reduce unintentional leaks," Pei said.
Few employees know what business secrets are and the rules they should abide by, even though they usually sign a secrecy agreement or receive training to raise their awareness about the dangers of such leaks, Pei added.
Gong Fangbin, a senior researcher at the Academy of Military Science of the People's Liberation Army, said many military enthusiasts are interested in, and follow closely, the development of China's defense technology and the progress made by the PLA, increasing the risk of classified information being leaked.
"It is good that more people are becoming interested in our national security and military buildup, but sometimes some people's good intentions will result in bad consequences," he said.
"Some Internet users who are also military enthusiasts have unknowingly leaked defense secrets out of their curiosity or desire to show off what they know."
He said some enthusiasts, inspired by media reports on the PLA's armaments, visited research institutes or manufacturing facilities to take photos of this equipment to share with others.
An insider at one of China's major defense contractors, who declined to be identified, said that such unconscious leaking had become widespread on many online forums that follow military affairs and that some highly sensitive information had been widely posted on the Internet.
Almost all Chinese online forums covering military affairs have regulations that forbid users from discussing sensitive defense technologies and the research development for the latest weapons, but many fans just ignore them, the insider said.
However, Wu Ming'an, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said it is necessary to specify information that is secret and the level of secrecy.
"Under the secrecy law, the secret content and level depends on institutions that may be related to State secrets, such as government administrations," he said.
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