China dispatches online army

Chinese government confirms existence of cyber warfare unit, "blue army", set up to improve country's defense capabilities and support army's Internet security training.

The Chinese government confirms it has established an online warfare team to beef up the defense capabilities of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), according to various reports Friday.

Geng Yansheng, spokesperson for China's Defense Ministry, was quoted to say that the PLA set up the cyberwar unit, or "cyber blue team", to support its military training and upgrade the army's Internet security defense.

A report from China's state-owned Xinhua News Agency noted that Geng's comments came after the PLA Daily on May 17 revealed the existence of a cyber warfare unit. The media outlet, which covers news on the army, added that the blue team operates under the Guangzhou Military Region--one of seven across China--and had conducted a synchronized Internet exercise with different military units in late-April.

The Guangzhou cyberwar network reportedly employs over 30 Internet specialists.

Geng rebuffed suggestions that the cyber warfare unit was set up to be a "hacker" squad launching online attacks against other countries' systems.

"Cyberattacks have become an international problem affecting both civilian and military areas," he said in a report from Global Times. "China is relatively weak in cybersecurity and has often been targeted. This temporary program is aimed at improving our defenses against such attacks."

The latest revelation follows efforts by the Chinese government to tighten control over the Internet. Earlier this month, a new agency was established to regulate online content and has the power to investigate and punish Web sites that violate regulations.

According to the country's Telecommunications Administration Bureau, the Chinese online population stood at 477 million as of end-March.