DOD: China fielding cyberattack units

"Annual Report to Congress: Military Power of the PRC 2006"

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China is stepping up its information warfare and computer network attack capabilities, according to a Defense Department report released this week.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is developing information warfare reserve and militia units and has begun incorporating them into broader exercises and training. Also, China is developing the ability to launch pre-emptive attacks against enemy computer networks in a crisis, according to the document, “Annual Report to Congress: Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2006.”

The Chinese approach centers on using civilian computer expertise and equipment to enhance PLA operations, the DOD report states.

“During a military contingency, information warfare units could support active PLA forces by conducting ‘hacker attacks’ and network intrusions, or other forms of ‘cyber’ warfare, on an adversary’s military and commercial computer systems, while helping to defend Chinese networks,” according to the report. These units would be composed of computer experts from academies, institutes and IT industries, it states.

In 2005, the PLA began to incorporate offensive computer network operations into military exercises, with the goal of developing first strike capability, “The PLA considers active offense to be the most important requirement for information warfare to destroy or disrupt an adversary’s capability to receive and process data,” the report states.

Computer Network Operations is an important part of the Chinese strategy to achieve electromagnetic dominance in any conflict, and as a force multiplier, according to the report. The PLA seeks to combine CNO with electronic warfare, kinetic strikes against C4 nodes, and virus attacks on enemy systems, to form what PLA theorists call “Integrated Network Electronic Warfare,” it noted.

This year’s DOD report on Chinese military modernization is the latest of six annual installments. Congress mandated the annual reports in the fiscal 2000 Defense authorization bill.

China has often criticized the reports as an attempt to exaggerate its military modernization and demonize China. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry called this year’s report an attempt to spread the China threat theory with a Cold War mentality, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

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