Report Details China's Electronic Espionage Apparatus

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

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A report which details China's electronic espionage and intelligence apparatus has been released by researchers at the Project 2049 Institute.

The report, titled "The Chinese People's Liberation Army Signal Intelligence and Cyber Reconnaissance Infrastructure", was authored by researchers Mark Stokes and Jenny Lin, and indicates that China has established a sophisticated multi-departmental organization for the purpose of espionage which includes both military and civilian entities.

"Indeed, the People‘s Republic of China (PRC) has emerged as a global power in information and communications technology (ICT). Guided by a 15-year (2006-2020) development strategy, a priority of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and PRC government is the informatization [信息化] of its national civilian and military infrastructure as a means to ensure sustained economic growth, compete globally in the ICT realm, and ensure national security," the report states.

China's intelligence gathering is not limited to that which serves national security and military efforts, and may be geared towards gaining an economic advantage as well.

"Information dominance, whether for political, economic, or military purposes, requires mastery of both the electromagnetic spectrum and the global cyber sphere. The PLA GSD Third Department [总参三部] and Fourth Department [总参四部] are considered to be the two largest players in China‘s burgeoning cyber-infrastructure," the report asserts.

The report states with confidence that China is monitoring all communications, including those associated with foreign embassies and multinational corporations, and that they are probably able to defeat all but the most advanced forms of encryption, leaving a vast amount of sensitive information vulnerable to interception.

"In the military, commanders rely on communications to coordinate operations, for logistics support, and to maintain situational awareness. Understanding of communication networks can also enable a perpetrator to disrupt or even destroy a target‘s command and control centers should the need arise. Moreover, information collected and collated from intercepted diplomatic, military, commercial and financial communications offers potential competitors an advantage on the negotiation table or battlefield," the report states.

China has devoted a great deal of resources to advancing their intelligence gathering operations, and that fact has not gone unnoticed by the U.S. government.

"In Senate testimony in 2011, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper outlined concerns about Chinese cyber surveillance, highlighting that the ―Chinese have made a substantial investment in this area, they have a very large organization devoted to it and they‘re pretty aggressive," the report notes.

A separate and unrelated report also released this month, titled the 2011 Report to Congress of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, reveals that some US operated satellites are not only vulnerable to attack, but there are documented instances where foreign operatives have actually taken control of the systems.

The report goes on to hint that similar attacks against other US satellite systems, such as those involved in military operations, could pose a significant national security threat.  The report stops short of actually calling out China as the source of the attacks, but suggests that the events are consistent with Chinese military tactical writings.

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