Cyber spying, or cyber espionage, is the act or practice of obtaining secrets and information without the permission and knowledge of the holder of the information from individuals, competitors, rivals, groups, governments and enemies for personal, economic, political or military advantage using methods on the Internet, networks or individual computers through the use of proxy servers, cracking techniques and malicious software including Trojan horses and spyware. It may wholly be perpetrated online from computer desks of professionals on bases in far away countries or may involve infiltration at home by computer trained conventional spies and moles or in other cases may be the criminal handiwork of amateur malicious hackers and software programmers.
Cyber spying typically involves the use of such access to secrets and classified information or control of individual computers or whole networks for a strategic advantage and for psychological, political and physical subversion activities and sabotage. More recently, cyber spying involves analysis of public activity on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Such operations, like non-cyber espionage, are typically illegal in the victim country while fully supported by the highest level of government in the aggressor country. The ethical situation likewise depends on one's viewpoint, particularly one's opinion of the governments involved.
In response to reports of cyber spying by China against the United States, Amitai Etzioni of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies has suggested that China and the United States should agree to a policy of mutually assured restraint with respect to cyberspace. This would involve allowing both states to take the measures they deem necessary for their self-defense while simultaneously agreeing to refrain from taking offensive steps or engaging in cyber espionage; it would also entail vetting these commitments. In September 2015, the United States and China agreed not to allow parties in their nations to cyberspy on each other for commercial gain, but did not prohibit government spying.
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