Chinese Cyber Warfare to Gain Military Superiority

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Since the 70s, when Deng Xiaoping was the head of China, the People’s Liberation Army tried to modernize itself and cut its size in order to become more efficient. Still, China is still behind when it comes to military even if its defense budget is the second largest after the United States on the planet, with US$57 billion in 2008[1]. According to an article published in Culture Mandala, China could boost its cyber warfare capabilities in order to compensate for their technological backwardness.

It started as soon as in 2003, when it deployed its first cyber warfare units, the “zixunhua budui[2]“. Since, many attacks have been attributed to China, such as Operation Titan Rain in 2003[3]. China hopes that by using asymmetrical warfare, such as information warfare and cyber warfare, it might level other modern armies.

Michael Vickers, Senior Vice President for Strategic Studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments declared that “a Chinese attack on Taiwan could entail special operations and cyber attacks on U.S. regional bases in Japan and South Korea, and might even include cyber attacks on the U.S. homeland that target the U.S. financial, economic, energy, and communications infrastructure[4]“. In the same document, we can read:

“One way to assess this risk is to ask whether a cyber attack by China launched a few days in advance of a clash could prevent U.S. carrier battle groups from deploying to the Taiwan Straits. Launching the attacks too early would create the risk of discovery and countermeasures.[5]

China could boost its cyber warfare capabilities in order to compensate for their technological backwardness
China could boost its cyber warfare capabilities in order to compensate for their technological backwardness

It is clear to me that a nation with a technologically late compared to modern armies have all the advantage to develop asymmetrical warfare. We can assess its effectiveness in Afghanistan and Iraq. And cyber warfare is a perfect way to destabilize modern armies used to technology in their daily operations. But this is far from being easy for both sides, as talented individuals and highly skills hackers are needed to develop this kind of warfare. Terrorists and groups are unlikely to develop a high quality cyber warfare force, although they still can be efficient. China, on the other hand, can and is smart to do it. After all, if a force can disable communications the enemy’s communications networks, such as GPS, emails and phone networks, it can makes a strong army useless. Like a strong man or woman, if the brain can contact the muscle through the nervous system, the body is powerless…

See also:

“How China Will Use Cyber Warfare To Leapfrog in Military Competitiveness“, Jason Fritz, Culture Mandala, Vol. 8, No. 1, October 2008

China’s Military Modernization and Its Impact on the United States and the Asia- Pacific“, U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 110th Cong, 1st Sess., March 29-30, 2007


[1] “How China Will Use Cyber Warfare To Leapfrog in Military Competitiveness”, Jason Fritz, Culture Mandala, Vol. 8, No. 1, October 2008, pp.29

[2] “Trojan Dragon: China’s Cyber Threat”, John J. Tkacik, Jr., The Heritage Foundation, February 8, 2008, http://www.heritage.org/Research/asiaandthepacific/bg2106.cfm#_ftn6 (accessed November 3, 2008)

[3] “Titan Rain – how Chinese hackers targeted Whitehall”, Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, September 5, 2007, http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/sep/04/news.internet (accessed November 3, 2008)

[4] China’s Military Modernization and Its Impact on the United States and the Asia- Pacific, U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 110th Cong, 1st Sess., March 29-30, 2007, p. 2

[5] Ibid. p.144

First Internet Worm is 20 years old Sunday

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In 1988, the computer world faced a new cyber menace that is still very well alive today. The first computer worm, written by a student called Robert Tappan Morris.

From Wikipedia:

“The original intent, according to him, was to gauge the size of the Internet. He released the worm from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to conceal the fact that it actually originated from Cornell. The worm was designed to count how many machines were connected to the Internet. Unknown to Morris, the worm had a design flaw. The worm was programmed to check each computer it found to determine if the infection was already present. However, Morris believed that some administrators might try to defeat his worm by instructing the computer to report a false positive. To compensate for this possibility, Morris directed the worm to copy itself anyway, fourteen percent of the time, no matter the response to the infection-status interrogation.”

Infection Map of the Code Red Worm
Infection Map of the Code Red Worm

Nowadays, worms are notorious for spreading malicious payloads across the entire Internet. It also known as an extremely efficient cyber weapon to mass exploit vulnerabilities on a large scale. Popular worms include Code Red, in 2001, which infected up to 359 000 machines[1], Klez, Blaster, Sasser are also notorious computer worms. Here is a table of notorious worms from the last decade:

Worm

Year

Damage ($US)

CIH 1998 $20 to $80 million
Melissa 1999 $1 billion
ILoveYou 2000 $5.5 billion to $8.7 billion in damages; ten percent of all Internet-connected computers hit
Code Red 2001 $2 billion; a rate of $200 million in damages per day
SQL Slammer 2003 Shut down South Korea’s online capacity for 12 hours; affected 500,000 servers worldwide
Blaster 2003 between $2 and $10 billion; hundreds of thousands of infected PCs
Sobig 2003 500,000 computers worldwide; as much as $1 billion in lost productivity
Sasser 2004 tens of millions of dollars; shut down the satellite communications for some French news agencies; several Delta airline flights were cancelled; shut down numerous companies’ systems worldwide
MyDoom 2004 Slowed global Internet performance by 10 percent and Web load times by up to 50 percent
Bagle 2004 Tens of millions of dollars

Table 1.0 – Top 10 Computer Worms[2]

See also:

Morris worm turns 20: Look what it’s done“, Carolyn Duffy Marsan, Network World, October 30, 2008, http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/103008-morris-worm.html?page=1 (accessed October 31, 2008)

Morris Worm To Turn 20 – How Far Things Have Come“, Darknet, October 31, 2008, http://www.darknet.org.uk/2008/10/morris-worm-to-turn-20-how-far-things-have-come/ (accessed October 31, 2008)


[1] “The Spread of the Code-Red Worm (CRv2)”, David Moore, Colleen Shannon, CAIDA, September 14, 2007, http://www.caida.org/research/security/code-red/coderedv2_analysis.xml (accessed October 31, 2008)

[2] “Top 10 worst computer viruses”, George Garza, Catalogs.com, February 17, 2008, http://www.catalogs.com/info/travel-vacations/top-10-worst-computer-viruses.html (accessed October 31, 2008)