Chinas military is preparing for electronic warfare by setting up information warfare units that are developing viruses to attack enemy computers and networks, according to the Department of Defenses annual report to Congress.
According to the DoD, the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) has also established tactics to protect its own computer systems and networks and those of friendly states. Since 2005, the PLA has been including offensive network attacks into its exercises, "primarily in first strikes against enemy networks," according to the report.
Chinas military is looking to establish what it calls "electromagnetic dominance" early in a conflict, specifically by launching electronic warfare against an enemys information systems on the battlefield, the DoD said.
Beyond computer viruses, the PLA is investing in other electronic countermeasures, including electronic and infrared decoys, angle reflectors and false target generators.
Chinas foreign ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu denounced the DoDs report, saying that it exaggerates Chinas military strength and expenses "out of ulterior motives."
"As a peace-loving country, China steadfastly follows a road of peaceful development, adopting a national defense policy that is defensive in nature," she said.
"Each sovereign state has the right and obligation to develop necessary national defense strength to safeguard its national security and territorial integrity. It is totally erroneous and invalid for the U.S. Report to play up the so-called China Threat."
The DoD views Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait as being the likeliest arena for military confrontation and credits Chinas focus on that country for its recent efforts to modernize its military planning.
"Chinas near-term focus on preparing for military contingencies in the Taiwan Strait, including the possibility of U.S. intervention, appears to be an important driver of its modernization plans," the report states.
In response to that particular view, Yu called Taiwan an "inalienable part of the Chinese territory."
"China resolutely opposes interference in Chinas internal affairs by any country with whatever manifestation," she said. "… We will never tolerate the Taiwan Independence or any attempt by anyone to separate Taiwan from China by whatever means."
At any rate, Chinas cyber-espionage is nothing new. Ira Winkler—author of "Zen and the Art of Information Security," former NSA (National Security Agency) analyst, former director of technology with the National Computer Security Association and current president of the Internet Security Advisors Group—said in an interview with eWEEK that Russia has had cyber-security squads for decades and that China has been at it for at least a decade. North Korea has had this type of behavior attributed to it as well.
"As far as a potential military adversary goes, China is clearly ranked second behind Russia with regards to capability," he said. "We have lots of little adversaries all over the place, but nobody offers more of a strategic threat than [Russia]."
What China has, Winkler said, is sheer resources to lavish on the effort, both in terms of gathering intelligence against the United States as a whole, as well as in military preparation.