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China Seeks ‘Information Dominance,’ Pentagon Says

by Brendan McGarry on May 11, 2013

Military delegates dressed in the latest uniform attend the reception of the 80th anniversary of the founding of the PLA at the Great Hall of the People

China wants to be able to control the flow of information in the event of a war to thwart data-hungry adversaries such as the U.S., according to a Defense Department report released this week.

The People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, considers the strategy of “information dominance” a critical form of defense against countries that it views as “information dependent,” according to the Pentagon’s latest annual assessment of China’s armed forces.

“PLA authors often cite the need in modern warfare to control information, sometimes termed ‘information blockade’ or ‘information dominance,’ and to seize the initiative and gain an information advantage in the early phases of a campaign to achieve air and sea superiority,” the document states. The country’s “investments in advanced electronic warfare systems, counterspace weapons, and computer network operations … reflect the emphasis and priority China’s leaders place on building capability for information advantage.”

The report, released May 5, concluded China’s military build-up is continuing, with investments in missiles, drones and cyber warfare as part of a plan to deter the U.S. and other countries from intervening in the region. The U.S. calls these types of missions “anti-access/area-denial,” or A2/AD, while the PLA refers to them as “counter-intervention operations,” it states.

The report marked the first time the Defense Department blamed China directly for targeting its computer networks. The attacks were focused on extracting information, including sensitive defense technology, according to the document.

“In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military,” it states. “The accesses and skills required for these intrusions are similar to those necessary to conduct computer network attacks.”

China called the accusations “groundless” and “not in line with the efforts made by both sides to strengthen mutual trust and cooperation,” according to a May 9 report published on the state-run website, “People’s Daily Online.” The country is a “victim itself of cyberattacks,” it states.

A Chinese espionage group since 2006 has stolen hundreds of terabytes of information from at least 141 companies across 20 major industries, including aerospace and defense, according to a February report from Mandiant, a closely held company based in Alexandria that sells information-security services.

The Defense Department wants to better protect its networks from attack and asked Congress to increase funding for so-called cyberspace operations 21 percent to $4.7 billion in fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1.

The military over the next three years plans to hire more military and civilian personnel and contractors at U.S. Cyber Command. The employees will be part of regional teams in Maryland, Texas, Georgia and Hawaii.

The Pentagon is building a joint operations center for the command at Fort Meade, Md. Construction is slated to begin in 2014, with tenants occupying the facility in 2017.

The military will fund efforts to automatically detect vulnerabilities on classified networks, buy software that looks for suspect files, and support other operations to “detect, deter and, if directed, respond to threats,” according to an overview of the budget.

The boost in cybersecurity funding is part of a larger trend across the federal government. The Obama administration’s budget would spend more than $13 billion on such programs. That amounts to about 16 percent of the government’s $82 billion information-technology budget.

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