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Thursday, March 13, 2008       Free Headline Alerts

Pentagon official: China may already be at cyberwar with U.S.

China’s growing cyberwarfare capabilities are an emerging threat already being felt by the U.S., a senior Pentagon official said.

David Sedney, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, said “there continue to be around the world, not just in the United States but around the world, many, many computer intrusions that are sourced back to the PRC.”

It is difficult to determine whether the attacks are “the work of the PLA or the Chinese government,” Sedney told reporters.

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However, “the techniques that are used, the way these intrusions are conducted, are certainly very consistent with what you would need if you were going to actually carry out cyberwarfare, and the kinds of activities that are carried out are consistent with a lot of writings we see from Chinese military and Chinese military theorists,” he said.

Chinese cyberwarfare “definitely is of growing concern, but again, one where we don't have very much clarity at all and where we really need to have a much better understanding of the Chinese.”

On Chinese military intentions, “I think those intentions are unclear,” Sedney said.

Sedney said computer network intrusions pose a threat. “The exact same techniques that you use to intrude into a computer you could use to then attack it later on.”

Additionally, intrusions allow the Chinese to gain access to large amounts of data. “And that has clearly happened. Large amounts of data have been taken out in these intrusions.”

Unclassified data can also be valuable to China because they could include proprietary business data or something paid for by the Pentagon.

“There's a whole range of scientific and technological material that is available through people in the contracting world and elsewhere, that just isn't classified, that can be the subject of these intrusions,” Sedney said.

While the Chinese government or PLA cannot be pinpointed in the data thefts, “the kinds of things that are done are certainly the kinds of things that espionage agencies would do,” Sedney said.

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