China joins Russia as worldwide cyberthreat

If you're not frightened by the Chinese economic juggernaut, this may give you pause: China has been developing sophisticated tools for international cyberwarfare, starting as far back as 2000.

The U.S. Department of Defense recently reported that the Chinese military "has established information warfare units to develop viruses to attack enemy computer systems and networks," according to the IDG News Service.

The Department of Defense also said that since at least 2000, "China has the capability to penetrate poorly protected U.S. computer systems and potentially could use CNA [computer network attacks] to attack specific U.S. civilian and military infrastructures."

The Department of Defense says that the Chinese cyberwarfare capabilities are most likely aimed at Taiwan, and noted "A limited military campaign could include computer network attacks against Taiwan’s political, military, and economic infrastructure to undermine the Taiwan population’s confidence in its leadership."

There's no reason that the same tools couldn't be unleashed against any potential target, including those in the United States. There's certainly no reason to expect China to do that at the moment. Not only would such an attack possibly incur a counterattack -- with missiles rather than just viruses -- but China's economic future is so tied to that of the United States that a cyberattack would hurt China as well.

But if Chinese history has taught us one thing it's this: The country has been subject to extreme political swings. Remember, it wasn't that long ago that the Red Guards ran riot through the country. So we should be hardening our cyberprotections, just in case.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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