China has long been accused of using cyber attacks as part of its military strategy, particularly against the United States. In its annual report to Congress yesterday (May 6) on the People's Liberation Army, the Pentagon placed a stronger emphasis than ever on the seriousness of these attacks.
[David Helvey, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia]:
"China's military continues to explore the roles of military operations in cyberspace as a feature of modern warfare and continues to develop doctrine training and exercises which emphasize information technology and operations. In addition in 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the United States government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to PRC (People's Republic of China) government and military organizations."
Examples of such attacks include the alleged theft of blueprints for the F-35 and F-22 stealth fighter planes.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry denied the accusations in the US report, restating its position against hacking.
[Hua Chunying, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman]:
"China has repeatedly stated its opposition to the so-called network attacking. China firmly opposes any form of computer hacking and is willing to have peaceful and constructive dialogues with the United States on network safety."
Despite this denial, US lawmakers have described China's ever expanding use of cyber warfare as a "cornerstone" of PLA operations. Earlier this year US cyber security company Mandiant published a report saying they had tracked a significant number of cyber attacks back to a 12-storey white tower in Shanghai.
Mandiant believes the tower is the headquarters of People's Liberation Army Unit 61398. These allegations were also denied by the China's Foreign Ministry.
Theft of US military secrets would allow China to defend against or even reverse engineer replicas of US weapons. This is part of an over all military expansion.
In the 83-page report the Pentagon said that Chinese military spending had increased by almost 10% annually for the last ten years. China announced a military budget of $114 billion in March, but the Pentagon estimates that figure could be as high as $215 billion. The US military however, is still far ahead, at an annual military budget of over $500 billion.
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