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Academic Paper in China Sets Off Alarms in ­.s.


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Chinese student Wang Jianwei

Chinese student Wang Jianwei and his professor wrote an academic paper on the vulnerability of the American power grid to a computer attack. Scientists said the paper was merely a technical exercise.

Credit: Du Bin / The New York Times

It came as a surprise this month to Wang Jianwei, a graduate engineering student in Liaoning, China, that he had been described as a potential cyberwarrior before the United States Congress. When reached by telephone, Wang said he and his professor had indeed published "Cascade-Based Attack Vulnerability on the U.S. Power Grid" in an international journal called Safety Science last spring. But Wang said he had simply been trying to find ways to enhance the stability of power grids by exploring potential vulnerabilities.

"I chose the electricity system because the grid can best represent how power currents flow through a network," he said. "I just wanted to do theoretical research."

The reaction to Wang's research shows an atmosphere charged with hostility between the United States and China over cybersecurity issues. "Already people are interpreting this as demonstrating some kind of interest that China would have in disrupting the U.S. power grid," says Nart Villeneuve, a researcher with the SecDev Group, an Ottawa-based cybersecurity research and consulting group. "Once you start interpreting every move that a country makes as hostile, it builds paranoia into the system."

 

From The New York Times
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