China teases military CyOps

China’s official military channel (CCTV-7) recently provided a six-second glimpse into the country’s enigmatic cyber capabilities.

In a documentary titled “The Internet Storm is Here,” a screen displaying the options “www denial-of-service attack” and “distributed denial-of-service attack” is shown.

A user then selects a website associated with the banned Falun Gong sect and clicks the “attack” button.

Nevertheless, analysts believe the footage – if genuine – is actually more than a decade old.

“It appeared to show dated computer screenshots of a Chinese military institute conducting a rudimentary type of cyber-attack against a United States-based dissident entity,” Dr. Andrew Erickson, an associate professor at the US Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute, and Gabe Collins, a commodity and security specialist, wrote on China SignPost.

“However modest, ambiguous – and, from China’s perspective, defensive – this is possibly the first direct piece of visual evidence from an official Chinese government source to undermine Beijing’s official claims never to engage in overseas hacking of any kind for government purposes.”

To be sure, the documentary prominently featured Col. Du Wenlong, a researcher at China’s top military research institute, who argued that the  country’s ability to attack and defend its networks “must be interwoven.” 

“To keep up with the pace of virtual technology, we must increase our fighting ability,” he said.

The documentary also described several types of attacks that could be deployed within the context of a cyber war, including “logic bombs,” or sleeper software which causes crucial enemy systems to crash when triggered.

Although Chinese Embassy spokesperson Wang Baodong declined to comment directly on the images in the above-mentioned video, he did issue the following statement to the WaPost.

“It’s no secret that Falun Gong and its subordinate institutions have been intensifying their subversive efforts against China in cyberspace… And China has every legitimate right to take action against such harmful activities to defend its national security interests.”

Interestingly enough, China’s decision to offer a rare glimpse into its shadowy CyOps world coincides with the publication of a U.S. DoD report on Sino-military capabilities – which claims the People’s Liberation Army is moving closer to matching modern militaries.

“Militarily, China’s sustained modernization program is paying visible dividends,” the report states. 

”During 2010, China made strides toward fielding an operational anti-ship ballistic missile, continued work on its aircraft carrier program, and finalized the prototype of its first stealth aircraft.”

The report also highlighted Beijing’s “aggressive” cyber-intelligence, which targeted numerous computer systems around the world.

“These intrusions were focused on exfiltrating information, [but the same skills can be used for] computer network attacks,” the DoD concluded.