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Merging History, Philosophy, Literature and Current Events in One Project

Friday, April 5, 2013

In 7th grade, the students are working on expository essay writing with a concentration on developing a thesis (or argument) using other elements of our curriculum and events in the world as they unfold. Below is an excellent example of an essay written by seventh grader Aisha Glenn on the concept of "power" as displayed through cyber attacks originating in China!

Control: The Driving Force

By Aisha, CDS 7th Grader

Recently, a very troubling issue has, at long last, been released to the public. Groups of cyber warriors operating out of Shanghai, China are hacking U.S. computer databases, and China’s army has been accused of being linked to the attacks. Information that is crucial to America’s success as a nation is falling into the wrong hands. These cyber warriors are on the road to gaining total control over the United States. Control is at the center of every problem; our need to control everything we come across causes most of the problems that we face, and this issue is becoming increasingly dangerous and hard to ignore. These hacking organizations are hungry for power, and are trying to get it by sneaking into the U.S. computer systems. The desire to control is their motivation. It is greed and hunger for dominance that drives us, and, at the same time, breaks us.

The People’s Liberation Army Base Unit 61398, located in Shanghai, China, has become a very happening place. According to U.S. firms tracking recent cyber attacks, they all seem to come from one small area. This 12-story building is at the center of that small area, which leads experts to believe that cyber warriors conduct their countless attacks from inside these walls. Mandiant, a private security firm, is among those tracking Unit 61398’s hacking activity. Kevin Mandia, the founder of this company, has some insight on the cyber attacks and where they’re being administered. “Either they are coming from inside Unit 61398, or the people who run the most-controlled, most-monitored Internet networks in the world are clueless about thousands of people generating attacks from this one neighborhood,” he said. The most prominent hacking group, known to the U.S. as “Comment Crew” or “Shanghai Group,” has been causing a lot of problems. Mandiant has recently sent out a report that offers an extensive description of this group, who operates inside Unit 61398. Comment Crew has targeted many of the companies that are very central to America’s cultural structure, including the RSA and Coca-Cola. This is a very smart move, because these companies that are essential to America’s existence can now be harmed by Comment Crew. Mandiant has been tracking this group’s hacking activity for over 6 years. So far, the company has investigated 141 cyber attacks that Comment Crew alone has directed. “But those are only the ones we could easily identify,” Mr. Mandia admitted. Experts say that thousands of cyberattacks can be traced back to this group.

Cyber attacks cause a lot of damage. They are very consistent, and all follow the same general format, which makes them incredibly effective. The hackers create “spearphishing” attacks, or seemingly harmless emails that can interfere with a targeted computer’s ability to function. Once the recipient clicks on the email, Unit 61398 has successfully infiltrated the system. The hackers use a very solid and dependable format; it is simple and works every time, always producing guaranteed results. This has become a huge problem for America’s utilities. Companies that provide general information about the utilities that hold the U.S. together are also targets. The companies responsible for power grids, chemical plants, pipelines, waterworks, and more are in danger. All in all, according to Mandiant, cyber warriors have broken into 20 important databases. This is a huge chunk out of America’s backbone that can be manipulated by China. The U.S. government plans to look into the cyber theft, but it can’t decide as a collective group whether or not to publicly accuse Comment Crew specifically. However, the government will inform China’s leaders about the attacks and their impact. This must be done soon, because this issue could cause the relationship between China and the U.S. to deteriorate. President Barack Obama is concerned about the attacks, and states that the government should act right away to stop them. He explained that, in addition to other countries trying to steal America’s corporate secrets, “...our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air-traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing.”

Although the current hacking seems like a very pressing issue, there are always two sides to a story. The U.S. has done quite a bit of hacking as well. America has partnered with Israel to attack Iran’s uranium enrichment program. U.S. has conducted numerous cyber attacks, and has sought to control other countries as well. However, somehow this is “different” than the current cyber attacks. According to government officials, they hacked for “good” reasons and were under strict orders. However, hacking is hacking, no matter who does it or why. In fact, China has been a victim of hacking directed by the United States. Technically, the current cyber theft could be labeled as revenge. The U.S. has been accusing China’s authorities of encouraging the hacking, but the authorities deny any state-sponsorship. However, the accusations keep coming. The U.S. is very concerned about the intrusive cyber attacks, and will not rest until everything is settled. “In the cold war, we were focused every day on the nuclear command centers around Moscow,” a senior defense official remarked. “Today, it’s fair to say that we worry as much about the computer servers in Shanghai.” China and the U.S. are locked in a sort of “asymmetrical digital war,” according to the New York Times. 

The need and hunger for control can be found everywhere. The element of control is central to human existence. It is found in the midst of everyday life. It can be recognized in people themselves, who tell stories that always incorporate just enough greed and desire for power to be realistic. The novel To Live by Yu Hua is the story of a man’s life in rural China during the mid-to-late 1900’s. It is an inspiring tale of hardship, struggle, sorrow, and bitterness, and yet full of peace and happiness. The Cultural Revolution was unfolding in China during this rebellious time. Mao Tse Tung, China’s leader, became paranoid. He worried that other members of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) were plotting against him. Anyone that wasn’t careful about their actions was attacked, often beaten, and sometimes even killed. Danger lurked around every corner. China wasn’t a safe place to be whatsoever. During the Cultural Revolution, anyone who spoke out against Communism or simply didn’t praise it enough was targeted. In Communism, there is no official class divide. Everyone gets an equal share of everything, and everyone is supposedly equal, except for the leaders, who are placed above everyone else. In reality, not everyone is truly equal. The values of Communism revolve around a totalitarian government, one that has endless power over the people. The main concept behind this system is control. The government wanted total control over the people of China. The leaders wanted the country to thrive, but things had to change in order for that to happen. They believed that a revolution was the only way to reshape China. However, in the middle of all this chaos, Fugui, the main character in To Live, tells the poignant tale of his life. As the Cultural Revolution went on, Fugui’s town became much more controlled and manipulated by the government. His life was shaped by this, and he experienced a lot of the government’s authority firsthand. His family’s land was taken away from them, and they had to overcome many obstacles because of it. They went hungry at one point, and barely got by. Eventually, the government’s controlling grip was responsible for the deaths of everyone in Fugui’s family (except him). Although the government didn’t cause all these losses directly, its power over China affected everyone in some way or another. Some people’s lives changed drastically during this time, and others simply shifted a little. Whatever the case, China’s leaders had extreme power over the country. The leaders controlled China for the good of the people, but also for themselves. Although a few positive changes were a result of the Cultural Revolution, the leaders’ greed caused many more negative things. It was their hunger for power and control over others that caused many of the hardships Fugui faced. 

Personally, I think that all the problems we face in the world are caused by greed and the idea that one person is somehow superior to others. When we experience these selfish thoughts, we act without thinking. Our actions are hasty, and we are always looking for more. Greed won’t solve problems. In fact, it will cause problems. We can prevent problems from happening in the first place, but only if we try to abandon our self-centered thoughts. Rivalries all sprout from greed, and when we wish to be better than others, tension occurs. Then, we attack each other, physically, mentally, and in every other possible way. Whenever I read about a strike, protest, or march, I often find that the participants are rebelling against people who have decided that they are superior to the rest of the world. I find that their selfish greed causes these revolts. They want to be in charge, to rule, to be the best. Everyone experiences these wishes. However, although it seems likely that this common experience would bring us together as a species, it draws us away from each other. Humans make mistakes, but not everything can simply be dismissed as a mistake. When we let our desires to control others take over, it’s no longer a mistake. It becomes something more, and this is what creates conflict. Control can’t be escaped; it is inevitable, always slipping in unnoticed by humans until conflict arises.