China cyber capability puts U.S. forces at risk: report

WASHINGTON Thu Mar 8, 2012 12:11am EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chinese cyberwarfare would pose a "genuine risk" to the U.S. military in a conflict, for instance over Taiwan or disputes in the South China Sea, according to a report prepared for the U.S. Congress.

Operations against computer networks have become fundamental to Beijing's military and national development strategies over the past decade, said the 136-page analysis by Northrop Grumman Corp released on Thursday by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Chinese commercial firms, bolstered by foreign partners, are giving the military access to cutting-edge research and technology, the analysis said.

The Chinese military's close ties to large Chinese telecommunications firms create a path for state-sponsored penetrations of supply networks for electronics used by the U.S. military, government and private industry, it added.

That has the potential to cause a "catastrophic failure of systems and networks supporting critical infrastructure for national security or public safety," according to the report.

On the military side, "Chinese capabilities in computer network operations have advanced sufficiently to pose genuine risk to U.S. military operations in the event of a conflict," the report said.

A senior U.S. defense official took issue with that characterization.

"No one should think that Chinese cyber capabilities can seriously impede U.S. military operations, said the official, who asked not to be named pending the Pentagon's formulation of its official response.

"We're cognizant of those capabilities, of course, and are working on ways to add to the tools we already have to respond to them if necessary," he said.

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Beijing in the past has complained about what it called unfair vilification by the 12-member bipartisan commission, which was set up by Congress in 2000 to investigate national-security implications of U.S. trade with China, the world's second-largest economy.

Computer network operations, as defined by the report, include attack and defense as well as network "exploitation," for instance for intelligence collection.

China is "fully engaged in leveraging all available resources to create a diverse, technically advanced ability to operate in cyberspace," and computer network operations are being broadly applied to assist with long-term national development, the report said.

It did not delve into reciprocal U.S. military efforts to gain an edge in cyberspace, which the Pentagon now defines as a potential battle zone like air, sea, space and land.

The keyboard-launched tools that China could use in a crisis over Taiwan or in the South China Sea could delay or degrade a potential U.S. military response, partly because of "the vagaries of international law and policy surrounding nation-state responses to apparent network attack," the report said.

Northrop Grumman's report is a follow-up to one it did for the commission in 2009. That analysis said Beijing appeared to be conducting "a long-term, sophisticated, computer network exploitation campaign" against the U.S. government and its military contractors.

Since then, official U.S. concern has grown over alleged Chinese espionage via computer penetrations. In October, the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, a U.S. intelligence arm, said in a declassified report to Congress that "Chinese actors are the world's most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage."

Commission Chairman Dennis Shea voiced hope in a statement that the new report would help the Congress in its current deliberations over cybersecurity legislation to protect U.S. networks.

(Reporting By Jim Wolf; Editing by Paul Simao)

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Comments (4)
AlphaQ wrote:
And yet we outsource to China I say to US get off your lazy assed work ethics and start competing at par with China. More people will be working and less home owners loosing thier homes.

Mar 08, 2012 12:40am EST  --  Report as abuse
DarthMark wrote:
I have to admit, this is something I’ve been curious about for a while. It does seem that we are somewhat behind when it comes to cyber security, or even network integration in general. At least when compared to most east asian nations. The hacker attacks this year alone on companies (many of them tech companies) show that there is a new style of warfare out there. And I know that government agencies did repel the same attacks, but when companies like Sony and Google can have security threats it just makes me a little worried. I don’t know whether it’s neglect, reliance on older software, or the ability of the attackers but it just seems like no one really pays attention to cyber threats. And I think they should…considering the very medium in which I’m expressing this thought.
sorry for the really long post, this article just hit something I’ve been thinking about for a while

Mar 08, 2012 1:30am EST  --  Report as abuse
JoeAlpha100 wrote:
I tell you the truth:

This is acturally a very good news since we could discuss more fiscal budget on this concern … not bad! We just need it now …

He he he …

Mar 08, 2012 2:12am EST  --  Report as abuse
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