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8/20/2010
05:20 PM
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DoD Publicly Cites Chinese Cyberespionage Against U.S.

Report says China's "information warfare units" include civilian computer experts

The Defense Department this week called out China for waging cyberattacks on U.S. companies and government agencies.

The "Annual Report To Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China 2010" report this week marks the Pentagon's most public statements yet about China's alleged cyberespionage efforts. The DoD report says in 2009, "numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be the target of intrusions that appear to have originated within" China, according to an Associated Press article on the DoD's report.

DoD maintains that China was "focused on exfiltrating information, some of which could be of strategic or military utility" in those attacks. It stopped short of confirming that the People's Liberation Army in China either executed or endorsed the attacks, but noted that "developing capabilities for cyberwarfare is consistent with PLA military writings."

The report also says the PLA has set up "information warfare units" that include civilian computer experts to create viruses that attack "enemy" computers and networks, the report says. "These units include elements of the militia, creating a linkage between PLA network operators and China's civilian information technology professionals," the report says.

Chinese officials this week disputed the DoD's claims, saying the U.S. was trying to "blacken China's image," according to reports from the Chinese state news agency Xinhua. "The U.S. purpose (of releasing such a report) is to tarnish China's image and exaggerate the threat China poses," China's Internet Society president reportedly said in response to the DoD report.

Meanwhile, the DoD report also cited the discovery by Canadian researchers in March 2009 of GhostNet, an electronic spy network "apparently based mainly in China." The gang broke into government offices around the world.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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