China’s Cyber Forces


China is well known for its global cyber espionage efforts. And while the United States has received most of the media attention given to cyber attacks, we are not the only ones dealing with this issue. India is now pointing the finger at China, claiming they have systematically launched a series of attacks on sensitive information systems and networks of Indian agencies. India rapidly responded and now has cyber-security forces down to the division-level to guard against cyber wars. But is that really enough given China’s stated ambitions?

China’s Cyber Warfare Doctrine is designed to achieve global “electronic dominance” by 2050 which would include the capability of disruption of the information infrastructure of their enemies. This doctrine includes strategies that would disrupt financial markets, military and civilian communications capabilities as well as other parts of the enemy’s critical infrastructure prior to the initiation of traditional military operations. With all the attacks that have been attributed to China, there has to be significant intelligence out there about techniques, cyber weapons and strategies that have been used in these cyber assaults. The proliferation of China’s cyber capabilities will be the topic of a Congressional hearing in DC on May 20th. This hearing will examine “China’s Proliferation Practices and the Development of its Cyber and Space Warfare Capabilities.”

Military and intelligence sources have known that Chinese cyber forces have developed these detailed plans for cyber attacks against the United States and others. It is believed that the plans for such an attack were drawn under the direction of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

China has a significant cyber weapons and intelligence infrastructure in place today. What is alarming is not only do they have the intent, but they have the money. Beijing has the world’s second or third largest defense budget depending on where you look for the numbers. Their military budget has been on the rise at 10 percent or more a year for over a decade. This, as well as the attacks, are evidenced by their cyber operational ability to scan, acquire nodes for their growing botnet as well as the continued sophisticated assaults on defense information systems in the US, Germany, UK and India. In addition, in April 2007, Sami Saydjari, who has worked on cyber defense systems for the Pentagon since the 1980s, told Congress: “The situation is grave, with nation-states such as China developing serious offensive capabilities.”

Recent attacks on the United States and India have brought this threat to the forefront. While diplomatic efforts to address these attacks have been initiated, virtually no progress has been made, according to individuals close to the issue. The following information has been provided by Spy-Ops and represents their assessment of China’s current cyber capabilities.

China People’s Liberation Army (PLA)
Military Budget: $62 Billion USD
Global Rating in Cyber Capabilities: Number Two
Cyber Warfare Budget: $55 Million USD
Offensive Cyber Capabilities: 4.2 (1 = Low, 3 = Moderate and 5 = Significant)

Cyber Weapons Arsenal:
In Order of Threat — Large, advanced BotNet for DDos and espionage
Electromagnetic pulse weapons (non-nuclear)
Compromised counterfeit computer hardware
Compromised computer peripheral devices
Compromised counterfeit computer software
Zero-day exploitation development framework
Advanced dynamic exploitation capabilities
Wireless data communications jammers
Computer viruses and worms
Cyber data collection exploits
Computer and networks reconnaissance tools
Embedded Trojan time bombs (suspected)
Compromised microprocessors & other chips (suspected)
Cyber Weapons Capabilities Rating: Advanced
Cyber force Size: 10,000 +
Broadband Connections: More than 55 million
China’s Hacker Community: Honker Union, Red Hackers Alliance (The 5th largest hacking organization in the world.)
China’s Software Industry: In Q1 2007, the software industry RMB 96.7 billion with a year-on-year increase of 26.9%.

In Q1 2008, China recorded RMB 144.36 billion in software industry sales revenue, up sharply year-on-year.

From all this information one can only conclude that China has the intent and technological capabilities necessary to carry out a cyber attack anywhere in the world at any time. Nations around the world can no longer ignore the advanced threat that China’s cyber warfare capabilities may have today and the ones they aspire to have in the near future. Just recently Belgian justice minister, Jo Vandeurzen, claimed that attacks against the Belgian Federal Government originated from China and are most likely sanctioned by Beijing. The Belgian minister of foreign affairs, Karel De Gucht, told their parliament that his ministry is the subject of cyber-espionage by Chinese cyber agents. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Spy-Ops believes that an estimated 140 countries will be working on their cyber weapons by the end of 2008 and that in the next five years we will see countries and extremist groups jockeying for cyber supremacy.

Kevin Coleman

  • Mark

    I love the information but it seems we have allowed ourselves to fall behind in an area that is critical to our nation’s security and that is quite concerning to me!

  • Foreign.Boy

    Falling behind on internet security isn’t a surprise. The current state of internet attacks is that as they develop new hacking techniques we build the defenses to them. Unfortunately due to the complexity of software its near impossible to predict where the next vulnerability can be found.
    Some people may not know that its possible to put a virus on your computer through client side software (javascript) and some vulnerable application (realplayer).
    The biggest problem and concern should be the counterfeit hardware. If enough people bought this hardware it could be possible that if China did wage a full cyber-warfare that it could turn the average person’s computer against their country.
    However, it does work to our own advantage for them to do these attacks now. As they develop their techniques and show their hand, it will become easier to thwart their attacks in the future. That being said… it should still worry you about the attacks that go undetected.

  • Isaac

    I agree. It seems tat we have only been focusing on our conventional military forces and that being mostly newer and ever more expensive aircraft and missles.

  • jim

    Sadly, it seems that China is behaving like aggressive rising powers of the past (Japan, Germany, Russia). The only thing that moderated those powers was crushing defeat (in Russia’s case more an economic self-strangulation.)
    The Sino-American War of 2050 will not be pretty.

  • Foreign.Boy

    By 2050 there may not be enough oil to wage war.
    They need to developed new engines/fuel cells by 2010. Build up enough new parts (engines) to wage war by 2020. That’s a optimistic estimate
    To be honest. If oil is taken out of the picture and the global community becomes segregated as societies try to squeak by without oil… China could stay home and destroy countries piecemeal without firing a shot.

  • Ike

    I still don’t see much reference to the old Global Crossing deal…

  • Jargon

    all internet traffic goes through the same trunk lines. Look at what happened to the cut cables in the middle east ( reported here a few weeks back ). Could simply cut the cable and voila…impervious to cyber attacks from foriegn entities

  • WR

    I am wondering if there is any correlation between Chinese cyber-dominance and the numerous Chinese electronics consumed by the US and her allies. In the light of the Chinese issue, it is a little concerning that we would still by a lot of electronics from the Chinese since in the event of cyber-war, they would already have the knowledge to exploit the electronic inner workings.

  • Terry

    I was not a fan of your work on here Kevin but you won me over. I just read about a secret FBI presention that got leaked today that said what you told us in the conterfeit hardware piece and this piece. This nation is in deep crap and you are one of the few getting the truth out.

  • GWB


    • m.r.y

      if you can do it!!!!

  • Jose Gonzalez

    Attention: Chinese Spies & Communist bureaucrats,
    Beware of India, besides Europe we will declare cyber war altogether against China if you continue hacking against democracy of the world.’
    You can deny this since China is under total control of China Communist Party on every levels.
    We are not naive !

  • Max

    Hey, whats your source for the list of cyber arsenal you’ve included in this article?