There are plenty of individual actors and small organizations launching attacks online. Many of them are minor—the Iranian cyber-army defacing websites, cybercriminals writing malware, and breaches of networks by individual hackers.
A 2007 Federal Computer Weekly article, citing a naval network warfare command official states that Chinese hackers are the “predominant threat” and are “constantly waging all-out warfare against Defense Department networks.”
Drew Berquist, a former U.S. intelligence officer, and author of “The Maverick Experiment,” told The Epoch Times that the intelligence community is well aware of the issue.
“They’ve been a threat for a while,” Berquist said in a phone interview.
“They’re someone we’ve had to really watch, and they get really involved in all the major cities around the globe,” he said. “They’ve got a strong presence with their intelligence officers right down to cities like Kabul in Afghanistan, as well as here in the United States—you name it. Whether it’s a big country or a third world country, they try to get their claws into it.”
He said that although the CCP has “other methods,” cyber-attacks are among its key focuses.
“When I think of them, I think of the battle that’s going on beneath the surface, it’s more of an infrastructure battle. It’s ‘how do we attack their computer networks, how do we attack their economy, and how do we go about [this with] different means’—not battles and conflicts,” he said.
An Integrated Strategy
From its clashes with the Soviet Union in the late 1960s the CCP learned that when fighting against a highly equipped enemy, the direct route is not the best.
From the late 1990s onward there has been a flourishing of theories of asymmetric warfare in Chinese strategic doctrine, using multiple nonmilitary attack vectors to achieve military outcomes, like the crippling of an enemy’s communications or financial infrastructure.
Cyberwarfare is a central element to the CCP’s asymmetric combat strategy. Much of the theory about modern warfare produced by Chinese military strategists a decade ago can now be seen playing out, and cyberwarfare is key.
The PLA Academy of Military Science text, the Science of Military Strategy, notes, “War is not only a military struggle, but also a comprehensive contest on the fronts of politics, economy, diplomacy, and law.”
A classified State Department report, uncovered by WikiLeaks, revealed that the Chinese regime’s military has launched continuous attacks against U.S. business and government networks since 2002, and that the intensity of the attacks is growing.
The latest, dubbed Night Dragon, used an assortment of vulnerabilities to target and harvest “sensitive competitive proprietary operations and project-financing information with regard to oil and gas field bids and operations,” according to McAfee, a software company that researched the operation.
Night Dragon added to China’s history of cyber-attacks, which have included Operation Aurora, targeting Google in December 2010, and the GhostNet attacks targeting the Dalai Lama, Western officials, and businesses that was uncovered on March 29, 2009.
Cyberwarfare is part of a broader nonkinetic, asymmetric warfare strategy adopted by the CCP against the United States, according to a declassified Department of Defense 2008 China Military Power report.
Included in this are important theoretical developments such as the concept of “Three Warfares,” approved by the Central Committee and the Central Military Commission in 2003.
The “Three Warfares” calls for the use of “Psychological Warfare,” meaning propaganda, deception, threats, and coercion, “Media Warfare,” referring to the campaigns meant to influence public opinion and garner popular support domestically and abroad, and “Legal Warfare,” which uses international and domestic judicial instruments to press for Chinese national interests.