Inside the Ring

CHINESE CYBERWARFARE PREP

Chinese cyberattacks and electronic intrusions into U.S. computer networks in peacetime are part of the preparations for a future high-technology war against the United States, according to the U.S. Pacific Command’s new commander.

China’s military also plans to disrupt U.S. military and civilian computer networks by attacking satellites in space, as well as ground-based networks, according to Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, who was confirmed by the Senate last week to be the next commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.

Adm. Locklear wrote in answers to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee that cyberwarfare preparations by China’s People’s Liberation Army include “building capability to target U.S. military space-based assets and computer networks using network and electronic warfare.”

“The development of these wartime capabilities are the motivation for China’s efforts at peacetime penetration of U.S. government and industry computer systems,” the four-star admiral said.

“The theft of U.S. information and intellectual property is attractive as a low-cost research and development tool for China’s defense industry, and provides insight into potential U.S. vulnerabilities.”

It was the first time a senior military officer revealed China’s military would conduct cyberattacks to disrupt or disable space systems used by the U.S. for strategic warfighting. Satellites are used by the military for numerous functions, from communicating with forces to guiding missiles and gathering intelligence.

“Overall, China’s development in the cyber realm, combined with its other anti-access/area denial capabilities, imposes significant potential risk on U.S. military activities,” Adm. Locklear said.

Adm. Locklear’s comments Feb. 9 were a rare public admission of what U.S. security officials have been saying privately for years. That is, China is engaged in pervasive warfare preparation against the United States through a combination of cyber and traditional military development.

Security officials said the Chinese goal for cyberoperations is twofold. The intrusions for more than a decade were successful in stealing valuable information useful for intelligence and economic benefit.

A more nefarious objective for the Chinese military’s cyberwarriors is the planting of electronic “sleeper agents” — difficult to detect software that rarely communicates with China but can be activated to sabotage the U.S. military during a crisis.

China fully understands the critical importance of cyber as an element of modern warfare,” Adm. Locklear stated.

“Chinese military writing clearly shows that China views itself at a disadvantage in any potential conflict with a modern high-tech military, such as that of the United States.”

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

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