The Chinese government has released sweeping new information security guidelines designed to enable public and private bodies to protect themselves more effectively against new cyber threats.
The State Council’s long list of recommendations spans just about every conceivable aspect of information security, painting a picture of a nation under siege from attackers and increasingly vulnerable thanks to its reliance on the internet.
It points to the need to better secure “energy, transport, finance and other fields of the national economy” as well as government departments.
On the government side, the guidelines include more auditing, security reporting and monitoring and a pledge to “reduce the number of internet connection points” – presumably to isolate highly classified data on specific machines.
The government also acknowledged the risk to industrial control systems, pledging to “strengthen the protection" of nuclear facilities, aerospace, advanced manufacturing, oil and gas pipelines, power systems, and more.
China also wants to “improve the information security certification and accreditation system”, step-up password protection in e-commerce and e-government, promote the use of “e-signatures” in banking and e-commerce and use strong encryption to protect classified information systems.
In addition, the plans include working towards better information sharing and exchange on cyber security matters, improving emergency response teams, and strengthening and promoting the ranks of information security professionals in the country.
Although short on any detail of exactly how all of this is going to be achieved, as a statement of intent it’s pretty comprehensive and with significant financial and human resources to hand, you can be pretty sure China will meet its goals.
However, throwing more technology at the problem may not be the best way for China to go, according to Kenny Lee, a principal consultant with Verizon Business Asia Pacific.
"Companies simply adopting more layers of technology may lead to false sense of security," he told The Reg.
"Many of today’s malware are undetectable due to increased customisation which renders anti-virus tools less effective. For example, on a case Verizon worked on, we identified a backdoor which was only recognised by one out of 40 AV vendors."
The government's proposals are nothing new, but if anything can be seen as a recognition of the importance of evolving information security strategies in key industries to protect national security and economic advantage.
If nothing else, a more secure China should at least reduce the number of unprotected machines which can be co-opted by cyber criminals.
There's no doubt China is an increasing target of attack for other states and cyber criminals.
Stats revealed in March claimed that attacks from outside the country had infected 8.9 million machines in 2011, up from five million a year earlier.®
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