PLA sets up centralised cyber war command

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 July, 2010, 12:00am

The People's Liberation Army has set up its first cyber war base as part of efforts to strengthen the army's digital security in the age of information warfare.

Officially called the Information Security Base, the new department is directly led by the PLA's General Staff Department, the PLA Daily said. It said it would become the headquarters for commanding all internet-based strategic information centres in all branches of the PLA.

The daily said the PLA's supreme command, the Central Military Commission, had ordered that the base become a key force in army strategy.

It is the first time the PLA has officially confirmed that it has developed cyber war strategies. However, the daily's three-paragraph report gave no details about the cyber base's operation.

Military and information technology analysts said the report provided a rare public glimpse into the army's preparedness for cyber warfare.

Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military analyst, said the cyber war base could be seen as a reaction to the establishment of the US Cyber Command by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates in June last year.

'The USCYBERCOM aims at coping with hacker attacks as well as other cyber attacks, which means the internet will become another key battlefield in tomorrow's world,' Ni said.

'It's a very important message to the PLA because the army did not have a united and centralised management system to command its information technology centres in different forces.'

The PLA had spared no effort in stepping up its digitisation, which was seen as part of its push to modernise, Ni said, adding that the army was trying its best to follow every step made by the US military.

'Under the united management of the General Staff's Information Department, the PLA will definitely put more resources into cyber war development,' he said.

'It's very practical and urgent for the PLA to put more focus on cyber war development because in today's internet world we never know where our enemies will come from and when they will attack us.'

For security reasons, the PLA last month issued rules to put all its 2.3 million troops in a digital straitjacket, banning them from using homepagers and blogging, social-networking, online chat and dating services - even while they are on holiday - out of concern for security.

Chen Baoshu, a Shanghai-based computer software engineer and military enthusiast, said that in the past, the PLA had focused on developing its own internet system to prevent attacks by outsiders and for other security reasons.

'Previous information told us that the PLA didn't pay much attention to cyber war development even though we have a lot of experts,' he said.

'But from now, it seems like the army are intent on catching up to the US to become another cyber war power.'

The outside world has kept a close eye on the PLA's cyber war development, with many Western countries, including the United States, complaining that they have been attacked by professional hackers in the past few years, many traced back to China.

The US has long suspected China and Russia of using cyber attacks to try to steal sensitive information, but both countries have denied this.


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