The US Department of Defence has warned of China's increasingly complex electronic warfare capabilities.
In its 2007 report to congress entitled "Military Power of the People’s Republic of China", the US military said that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is continuing to invest in both computer network defences and exploitation, known as computer network operations (CNO).
"China's CNO concepts include computer network attack, computer network defense, and computer network exploitation. The PLA sees CNO as critical to achieving "electromagnetic dominance" early in a conflict," said the report.
According to the US military, the PLA has established information warfare units to develop viruses to attack enemy computer systems and networks, and tactics and measures to protect friendly systems and networks. In 2005, the PLA began to incorporate offensive CNO into its exercises, primarily in first strikes against enemy networks.
While these capabilities could also be harnessed for industrial espionage, security experts pointed out that businesses in theory were at risk from spying by all countries with a national security agency.
"The Americans, the British, the French, the Israelis -- everyone is looking for stuff travelling the wires," said a senior source at security company Symantec. However, the source said that it was just another security concern for companies, and that the threat could be overplayed. "There's also a certain amount of FUD [fear, uncertainty, doubt]."