The Spy Game (2014)

Here’s how Andy Hertzfeld, an eyewitness, recounted it:

No fair: I broke in first

“You’re ripping us off!” Steve [Jobs] shouted, raising his voice even higher. “I trusted you, and now you’re stealing from us!”

But Bill Gates just stood there coolly, looking Steve directly in the eye, before starting to speak in his squeaky voice.

“Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”

It was November 1983, and Jobs had just learned that Microsoft was planning to introduce a new graphical operating environment called Windows. It would compete directly against Apple’s soon-to-be-introduced Macintosh operating system, which bore an uncanny similarity to a mouse-driven graphical software environment invented at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox PARC).

“When Steve Jobs found out about Windows, he went ballistic. “Get Gates down here immediately,” he fumed to Mike Boich, Mac’s original evangelist who was in charge of our relationships with third party developers. “He needs to explain this, and it better be good. I want him in this room by tomorrow afternoon, or else!”

Or else what? Hertzfeld doesn’t say.

And that’s pretty much the same scenario playing out this week, following yesterday’s news that the United States Department of Justice had filed indictments against five officers of China’s People’s Liberation Army Unit 61398, accusing them of using the Internet to spy on American companies. The Justice Department is saying to the Chinese, “You’re ripping us off! Send the five hackers over here for trial. We want them in this country by tomorrow afternoon, or else!”

Chinese response needs no translation

I don’t know the Mandarin translation for “I fart in your general direction,” but that is approximately the response of the Chinese government.

And who can blame them, after the latest revelations of National Security Agency sneakiness? The United States and China, it turns out, are the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates of corporate espionage. “We both have these rich corporate neighbors using the internet, and I broke into them to steal foreign corporate secrets and found out that you had already stolen them.”

In his new book “No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald describes a June 2010 document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden:

“The NSA routinely receives — or intercepts — routers, servers, and other computer network devices being exported from the US before they are delivered to the international customers,” Greenwald writes. “The agency then implants backdoor surveillance tools, repackages the devices with a factory seal and sends them on. The NSA thus gains access to entire networks and all their users.”

In 2012, the United States House of Representatives Permanent Committee on Intelligence accused two Chinese telecommunications giants, Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corporation, of installing backdoor surveillance tools inside the telecom equipment sold to American companies, at the behest of the Chinese government. The House report said Huawei and ZTE equipment should be considered threats to national security. Huawei and ZTE denied the accusations.

If the leaked Snowdon documents are authentic, the United States was accusing China of trying to steal the television more than two years after the NSA stole it.

Cisco also pointed the finger at Huawei at about the same time, saying Huawei products were boobytrapped by the government. One has to assume, for the sake of sanity, that Cisco did not know its own routers were being hacked by the NSA.