William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.
I miss the old days, when simple things like washing behind your ears and having an extra pair of clean underwear were matters of paramount concern.
Now we have Chinese Army hackers crawling around our bedroom computers day and night.
It's enough to make you want to pull out your old Smith Corona. (Psst: That was a typewriter.)
Every day we learn of some new organization, company or newspaper being hacked by the Chinese. The digital peeping Toms have turned Washington inside out and on its head, according to news reports.
"Law firms, think tanks, newspapers . . . if there's something of interest, you should assume you've been penetrated," a U.S. intelligence official was quoted as saying in The Washington Times this week. "I've yet to come across a network that hasn't been breached," an FBI investigator added.
It's enough to give the little guy a complex for not having been picked on. Are our lives really that dull?
Syndicated columnist Ann McFeatters reports that at least 115 U.S. companies have admitted to having undergone, unwillingly, a Chinese digital colonoscopy, including General Motors, DuPont, Coca-Cola, American Superconductor, Google, RSA Security, Lockheed Martin and Nortel Networks. Hundreds of other companies surely have been hit, but are reluctant to admit it. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times just reported being hacked.
The Chinese are after everything: trade secrets, patents, military planning, banking information, electrical grid systems -- and, I would imagine, little bits of gossip on prominent Americans that might one day be useful to them. One wonders how many personal emails from U.S. lawmakers the Chinese have read. A single off-color sentence could be fodder for blackmail in this crazy world.
The campaigns of President Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain were both hacked by the Chinese in 2008. I remember reading about that and thinking how insightful edits to foreign policy positions papers would be to other governments. What's in them is important; what's been deleted from them is critical to understanding a candidate's or president's thinking.
The principal group behind the Chinese hacking has a name right out of the old espionage film, "The Manchurian Candidate" -- People's Liberation Army Unit 61398 -- or the "Shanghai Group" as it's being called. Computer security firm Mandiant just released a bombshell, 60-page study on the unit, which anyone can read -- along with the Chinese.
It's not just the Shanghai Group, though. Russia, Pakistan, India and many others nations are successfully cyberspying on us -- and we on them -- but no one can touch the craftiness of those folks on the other side of the world that gave us knock off BlackBerries ("RedBerries"), counterfeit Marlboros, and entirely bogus Apple computer stores filled with a full line of fake Apple products.
I'm beginning to think it's a good thing the Chinese hold so much of our debt, because they at least have a stake in our economy staying viable. If they didn't, they might just flip off our light switches one of these nights and forget to turn them back on. That's a scary thought.
Until then, just a quick factual note to P.L.A. 61398 should they eventually stumble across my computer: That Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. I swear it's not mine. The Russians put it there.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.