Why the world is on edge over a new cyber-warfare threat

A cyber-attack on a Chinese bank could trigger a new wave of civil unrest.

Key points:China’s internet was shut down in November after the country’s top court ruled on a case involving the case of a man who said he was raped by a staff member, triggering a nationwide cyber-crisisWhat is a cyber-security attack?

Cyber-security refers to attacks carried out with cyber-exploit techniques or a new form of attack, such as phishingThe government says cyber-attacks are not new, but the severity of cyber-threats have increasedIn January this year, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) issued a warning on the potential for a cyberattack on its system.

In response, a group of people started a campaign on Chinese social media to call for “social engineering” attacks on the PBOC’s system.

“Let’s not let the cyber-scum get away with this,” one message read.

“If this attack takes place, it will lead to a serious damage to the PBOT [People’s Bank].

We must get rid of this gangster mentality and stop using cyber-weaponry,” another read.

A month later, the Chinese government said it would be “totally ready” to retaliate.

“We will use every means to ensure that our people and national economy are protected and our country is protected,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

This week, a US official told the Associated Press that the US government was assessing a cyberthreat to the Chinese economy. 

“We are working with our Chinese counterparts to identify ways to respond to cyberthreats and prevent them from becoming a serious problem for us,” the US State Department’s spokesman Mark Toner told the AP.

The Chinese government has denied the cyberthreat was related to the rape case and has denied any connection to cyber-criminal groups.

But some experts say there is a possibility that China’s government is preparing for a response.

“It’s not unusual for China to take a different tone to the US in a cyber incident, especially given its close relationship with the US,” said Dan Schatzberg, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“But the timing of this attack could be a hint of a possible change,” he said.

China has not commented on the new cyberattack.