Caught in the act
Chinese internet penetration – not the kind that violates China’s pornography ban – has hit an all-time high, according to data released this week, breaking the half a billion user milestone. There are signs that these netizens aren't spending all of their time playing gnome wizards on World of Warcraft, and instead have been engaging in some 1990s-B-movie-style thrill seeking by dabbling as hackers. (Admittedly, if you're not going to leave the wangba you really have no other options for thrills, unless you're going to take your life into your own hands by eating one of those sweaty rotisserie hot dogs.) The US Securities and Exchange Commission is pushing for companies to disclose cyber crimes after Google and Adobe admitted to being violated by China-based hackers, and regulators suspect that many more companies have not come forward about attacks.
As if China slipping through US firewalls wasn't scary enough, it appears India has made it into a cyber ménage-a-trois. The FBI is hot and bothered over the fact that an Indian hacker group may have intercepted e-mails sent and received by a congressionally-appointed group that reports on US-China economic and military matters. The hack may be a result of India's fears that it will be jilted in any economic romancing between the US and China. But, as one state department official put it, the India problem is nothing that can't be solved by some behind-closed-door sweet talking. Alas, international relationships were just so much easier to manage before the Internet.
A guide to Chinese regulator acronyms
Evil-sounding acronyms are a sine qua non for evil or would-be evil organizations. James Bond had SPECTRE; GI Joe had COBRE; Darkwing Duck had FOWL. China’s regulators aren’t really evil, but opaque and unaccountable organizations often feel the urge to adopt Star Wars-sounding names. The best is the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (or “SARFT”). Appropriately, SARFT – trivia time! – also won China’s coveted “most bizarre and unpredictable rulemaker” award in 2011. SARFT publicly mused about capping movie theater ticket prices this week, presumably in order to encourage cinematic literacy and further enhance appreciation of its awesome name. Not far behind is MOFCOM (The Ministry of Commerce), which sounds like a kick-butt mothership and was partly involved in the sexy work of bringing China’s inflation down to a more bearable 4.1% last month. Over on the good-guy side of the fence is SAFE (State Administration of Foreign Exchange), an organization whose acronym is allegedly the result of a multi-million dollar effort by advertising firm Omnicom to create a name that brings to mind “safety.” The group said this week that its pile of forex reserves had dropped; sheepishly admitting that it had spent a lot of money on another ad agency to create a name for its new domestic offshoot, SAFER (State Administration of Foreign Exchange [Renminbi]). The new regulator is intended to balance inflationary pressures generated by MOFCOM’s new fiscal stimulus program, called DEATH RAY (not an acronym).