Thursday, October 13, 2011

China tech companies have army-linked 'cybermilitias'

Nanhao Group is, in many ways, an ordinary technology company. Its staff make online scoring systems, exam-mark scanners and other educational hardware and software.

But many of its 500 employees in Hengshui, just south-west of Beijing, have a second job. Since 2005 Nanhao has been home to a cybermilitia unit organised by the People's Liberation Army.

"All staff under the age of 30 belong to the unit," said Bai Guoliang, Nanhao vice-president. It is unclear what exactly the unit does, but according to a local government announcement when it was set up, it consisted of two groups tasked with cyberattack and cyberdefence.

The Nanhao operation is one of thousands set up by the Chinese military over the past decade in technology companies and universities around the country. These units form the backbone of the country's internet warfare forces, increasingly seen as a serious threat at a time of escalating global cybertensions.

Governments, companies and internet security experts around the world have blamed China for many of the past year's global hacking attacks. US officials point to the Chinese government or its supporters for the theft of neutron bomb designs, the defence secretary's emails and private sector intellectual property worth many billions of dollars. more