America’s Department of Defense yesterday released its annual report on China’s military capabilities (pdf). The report includes “electronic warfare” and “information dominance” as part of a larger campaign it says is an “essential element, if not a fundamental prerequisite” of China’s defense planning.
The report is good PR for China’s cyberwarriors but there is nothing surprising about the country’s ambitions. America itself is relatively open about its cyberwarfare activities. The US air force recently designated six bits of code as “weapons” so it could squeeze some more funding out of the defense budget. And the most widely known instance of cyberwarfare, Stuxnet, is a computer virus with not one, not two, but five “zero-day exploits,” as attacks on previously undiscovered vulnerabilities are knowns. Stuxnet was hailed as such a success that its authors, America and Israel, gleefully ensured that the whole world knew who was behind it.
Some researchers doubt the effectiveness of Stuxnet. That seems almost immaterial. Where the wide publicity given to Chinese attacks ensures a bogeyman, the success of Stuxnet—and the low cost of developing such weapons—has become a model for other countries to follow.