Gathering intelligence is a lot like creating a mosaic: The best intelligence is developed by accumulating large numbers of small pieces of information. Eventually, the entity gathering the information gets a complete picture. That's why the latest hack attack by the Chinese government -- this time on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- is both fascinating and disturbing.
Although the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a large, well-funded group, it doesn't deal in state secrets. It's essentially a trade association and lobbying group. However, it does exert quite a bit of influence over government actions as they relate to business. Perhaps knowing the Chamber’s position on Asian business -- especially on the relationship between U.S. and Chinese companies -- would give China an idea of what the Chamber might suggest to the U.S. government.
But if the Chinese are willing to go to so much trouble to ferret out the secret of a non-government agency, then what -- and who -- else are they targeting?
The answer to that question might be as close as looking in the mirror. No doubt you think your company is of little interest to the Chinese -- or any other group, for that matter -- but take a step back and think of it as part of building the mosaic of intelligence. For any company, the only safe course is to take the strongest measures it can, and then to monitor its systems constantly to find intrusions as soon as they happen. Because they will.
Only the Chinese government knows for sure what the hackers were after with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In the end, however, the more important question isn't why the Chamber was targeted, but how much the Chinese learned.