High-tech warfare

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High-tech warfare


Published 7/22/01

TAIPEI, Taiwan — China's military is moving ahead with development of information warfare capabilities and appears to have orchestrated recent computer attacks on Taiwan, the top electronic warfare general here said.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Abe C. Lin, director of the Defense Ministry information and electronic warfare directorate, said in an interview with The Washington Times that the People's Republic of China is developing a variety of information warfare and electronic combat weapons in preparation for a conflict with the Republic of China — also known as Taiwan.

The weapons include: •Electromagnetic pulse missile warheads that can disrupt the electronics of weapons systems by creating an electronic shock similar to that caused by a nuclear blast.

•Computer viruses that can be unleashed against both military and civilian computer networks, such as banking and stock market systems, to cause social unrest and create chaos.

•"Trojan horse" computer programs, planted in networks, that appear as useful programs but covertly unleash destructive software. •Spies planted within the military and government who could sabotage computer networks in wartime. Taiwan's military has not experienced any destructive "insider"-based attacks on its networks. However, there have been incidents involving soldiers who misused their access to networks without causing damage, Gen. Lin said.

A second senior defense official here said China also is developing microwave electronic weapons to disrupt military electronics.

"The first wave of a Chinese military attack on Taiwan would be a major information warfare strike," this official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Gen. Lin said China's government has denied it had any role in numerous coordinated computer attacks from the mainland in recent months. However, the attacks were all carried out using a similar methodology, even though they originated from several different Chinese provinces. The similarities have fueled suspicions that the Beijing government was behind the computer strikes. On May 20, for example, there were major computer intrusions coinciding with the one-year anniversary of Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian's inauguration, he said.

A large number of mainland hacker attacks also took place after the April 1 collision between a Chinese F-8 fighter jet and a U.S. EP-3E surveillance aircraft.

The May 20 attack was unique. "We have already experienced a lot of Trojan horses," Gen. Lin said. "But it was the first time they sent a Trojan horse into one of our main Web sites as a leaping-off point to attack somebody else. It was a good lesson for us." The unidentified Chinese who planted the Trojan horse were successful in exploiting weaknesses in a computer operating system, he said.

China's military announced in 1999 that it planned to develop a large-scale information warfare component that would be equal in stature to its army, navy and air force.

Gen. Lin said Taiwan is working on its own information warfare attack capabilities. But he declined to discuss any details. Gen. Lin said Taiwan's military uses an isolated network for its communications and information transfers but also uses the public Internet as a backup system.

The military network is rarely attacked but is monitored round-the-clock, he said. Taiwan's public computer networks, however, are vulnerable to disruption, and it is these systems — used for both government and private communications — that the military is in charge of protecting, he said.

"This part is the main focus of mainland China," Gen. Lin said. "They try a variety of ways to attack, and so far we can see very clearly when and how they are trying to attack."

He also said that Taiwan is preparing to counter Chinese military information and electronic warfare operations, adding that Beijing harbors aggressive tendencies toward the United States as well.

"One element of [China's] combat readiness is to prevent U.S. troops from entering the Taiwan Strait and the boundary area," Gen. Lin said in an interview in a ministry conference room.

"So they are developing different types of electronic warfare weapons to destroy the information grid, not only in Taiwanese weapons platforms, but in U.S. weapons platforms as well, just in case the United States tries to deploy their weapons in this area," he said.

China's military forces, which are now conducting large-scale war games on Dongshan Island, north of Taiwan, reportedly practiced a first-phase military strike using information and electronic warfare attacks.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), July 22, 2001

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