Does your fridge speak Sanskrit?

H ow do you frustrate a CIA hacker? Show them Chinese. So goes a headline in the South China Morning Post following WikiLeaks’ expose of the US CIA’s phenomenal ability to hack into not just your computer, but also your phone, television and probably anything else connected online.

Published: 10th March 2017 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th March 2017 12:47 AM   |  A+A-

H ow do you frustrate a CIA hacker? Show them Chinese. So goes a headline in the South China Morning Post following WikiLeaks’ expose of the US CIA’s phenomenal ability to hack into not just your computer, but also your phone, television and probably anything else connected online.

Apparently, in a small but telling anecdote in the files released by WikiLeaks, an agent trying to hack into a Chinese system was stymied when “a dialogue box in Chinese kept popping up on screen as the agent tried to install a test program on a computer ...

Unable to understand what the box said, he tried everything from setting the system region to an English-speaking zone to forcing the program installer to use English” but in vain, until a “Chinese-speaking CIA agent eventually translated it”. 


According to a cybersecurity expert quoted by the SCMP, this implied two significant things. One, “The (language) issue rarely entered the heads of cybersecurity experts because nearly all code lines are written in universal languages any programmer ... can read.

But some Chinese software engineers insert Chinese text into source code to aid their memories and communicate with colleagues. This can cause unexpected obstacles for foreign attackers.” Two, “the CIA ... had recruited a number of Chinese-speaking hackers to assist in and accelerate China-related operations.” 


While the second part is obvious, the first might have relevance to Indian security experts who don’t want to have their systems hacked into. So while the CIA laments that the WikiLeaks disclosure damaged the intelligence community’s ability to protect America against terrorists and other adversaries, Indian cybersecurity experts could protect their top secret institutions from snooping and hacking by simply throwing in a Sanskrit character or three into their code. Until, that is, the CIA somehow manages to convince the xenophobic Donald Trump that it needed some Sanskrit experts.

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