While media and private sector groups have discussed China’s cyberwar against the U.S. openly for some time now, government has been weary of making official accusations – until now.
Released May 6, the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress is the first official government document explicitly attributing a wide array of systematic, strategic cyber-attacks on the U.S. to the People’s Liberation Army.
“In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military,” the report reads.
China is using its computer network exploitation capability to collect intelligence on diplomatic, economic and defense industrial base sectors supporting U.S. national defense programs. Information garnered could be used to help Chinese defense and high-tech industries, China’s political interest in the administration’s thinking on key China issues, and military planners building a picture of U.S. defense networks, logistics and related military capabilities, according to the report.
Cyberwarfare capabilities are useful to China because they allow for easy intelligence gathering. In times of crisis or conflict, cyber-attacks on network-based logistics could slow U.S. operational responses, advantageous to a Chinese adversary. Such capabilities further serve as a force multiplier by allowing the traditional army to be supplemented by a cyber one.
Authoritative PLA military documents also endorse the development of cyber capabilities for war-related purposes. Two documents, the Science of Strategy and Science of Campaigns, discuss information warfare as the cornerstone for achieving information supremacy as well as a tactical strategy against adversaries. Neither document overtly details criteria for the deployment of these capabilities, however.