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Chinese army to target cyber war threat

July 25, 2010

New department dedicated to protecting
information security follows creation of US cyber command
Tania Branigan in Beijing
Guardian (UK)
July 23, 2010

The People's Liberation Army has unveiled its
first department dedicated to tackling cyber war
threats and protecting information security, Chinese media reported today.

The move comes just over a year after the United
States created a cyber command.

The PLA Daily said the military announced the
creation of the Information Security Base on
Monday, giving few more details in its brief report.

But an officer in the General Staff headquarters,
which directly oversees the new department, told
the Global Times (state run): "It is a
'defensive' base for information security, not an
offensive headquarters for cyber war."

He said the base would be used to gather online
information and "build up walls" to safeguard
confidential military information.

Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military analyst,
told the South China Morning Post: "The
USCYBERCOM aims at coping with hacker attacks as
well as other cyber attacks, which means the
internet will become another key battlefield in tomorrow's world.

"It's a very important message to the PLA because
the army did not have a united and centralised
management system to command its information
technology centres in different forces."

Christian Le Miere, senior Asia analyst for
Jane's Country Risk, said: "Every major military
has to be concerned about cyberwar.

"There was maybe some form of taboo [about
setting up a dedicated centre], but as soon as
the US does it, everyone says 'we can have one too'."

Le Miere said such security issues had gained
attention after Estonia suffered cyberattacks
which some blamed on Russia and Chinese faced
allegations of state complicity in attacks on US sites.

"It is seen as an increasingly useful arena for
competition and quasi-military espionage," he said.

A recent report warned that Nato was increasingly
vulnerable to cyberwarfare and US deputy defence
secretary William Lynn said in a speech last
year: "We know ... that both Russia and China
have the capability to disrupt elements of other
nations' information infrastructure."

Discussing attacks on American governmental,
military and private networks, he said the
Pentagon had traced some back to China but
"[could] not attribute whether it's a private,
public, whether it's military, intelligence, industry or criminal."

But China also feels vulnerable. Earlier this
year, Professor Fang Binxing, president of the
Beijing University of Posts and
Telecommunications, said the US was "without
question the world's foremost power in
cyber-based attacks and defence", and that
Chinese capabilities remained very backward.

An official with the National Computer Network
Emergency Response Team accused foreign countries
of "rumour mongering and overstating the cyber
threat from Chinese hackers ... covering up their
political purpose of building up a cyber army".

Officials have denied any state involvement in
hacking and said China is one of the biggest victims.

The Chinese military recently banned its soldiers
from blogging or setting up their own websites --
even when on leave – with Wan Long, the political
commissar of a regiment telling the PLA Daily:
"The internet is complicated and we should guard against online traps."
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