By Jim Wolfwed
13 June 2007
China is seeking to unseat the United States as the dominant power in
cyberspace, a U.S. Air Force general leading a new push in this area
"They're the only nation that has been quite that blatant about saying,
'We're looking to do that,"' 8th Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Robert
Elder told reporters.
Elder is to head a new three-star cyber command being set up at
Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, already home to about 25,000
military personnel involved in everything from electronic warfare to
The command's focus is to control the cyber domain, critical to
everything from communications to surveillance to infrastructure
"We have peer competitors right now in terms of doing computer network
attack ... and I believe we're going to be able to ratchet up our
capability," Elder said. "We're going to go way ahead."
The Defense Department said in its annual report on China's military
power last month that China regarded computer network operations --
attacks, defense and exploitation -- as critical to achieving
"electromagnetic dominance" early in a conflict.
China's People's Liberation Army has established information warfare
units to develop viruses to attack enemy computer systems and networks,
the Pentagon said.
China also was investing in electronic countermeasures and defenses
against electronic attack, including infrared decoys, angle reflectors
and false-target generators, it said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected the U.S. report as "brutal
interference" in China's internal affairs and insisted Beijing's
military preparations were purely defensive.
Elder described the bulk of current alleged Chinese cyber-operations as
industrial espionage aimed at stealing trade secrets to save years of
He attributed the espionage to a mix of criminals, hackers and
"nation-state" forces. Virtually all potential U.S. foes also were
scanning U.S. networks for trade and defense secrets, he added.
"Everyone but North Korea," he said. "We've concluded that there must be
only one laptop in all of North Korea -- and that guy's not allowed to
scan" overseas networks, Elder said.
In October, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff defined cyberspace as
"characterized by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic
spectrum to store, modify, and exchange data via networked systems and
associated physical infrastructures."
The definition is broad enough to cover far more than merely defending
or attacking computer networks. Other concerns include remotely
detonated roadside bombs in Iraq, interference with Global Positioning
Satellites and satellite communications, Internet financial transactions
by adversaries, and radar and navigational jamming.
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