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[ISN] The Taiwan Scenario


By Rebecca Sausner
May 2007

The issue of China's cyberwarfare capabilities is intricately linked to 
the status of Taiwan. A quick brushup on foreign policy: the U.S. has 
pledged to defend Taiwan if China makes good on its long-held desire to 
reunite with the renegade island. In the event that conflict erupts over 
Taiwan, which is a common assumption, "the U.S. government can expect 
very specific attacks to be launched against very specific military and 
government targets, as well as economic targets," says Rick Fisher, vp 
at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, a Virginia-based 
think tank specializing in defense and security issues.

There are those who argue that the increased cyber incursions we've seen 
of late are reconnaissance for just such an incursion. Their evidence? 
The targets that have reportedly been infiltrated by Chinese hackers 
within the last 18 months include: the Non-classified Internet Protocol 
Router Network, or NIPRnet, the Energy Department, the Commerce 
Department's Bureau of Industry and Security, the State Department, and 
The Naval War College. Last summer Maj. Gen. William Lord, director of 
information, services and integration in the AirForce's Office of 
Warfighting Integration and CIO, reportedly said China had downloaded 10 
to 20 terabytes of data from NIPRnet, the unencrypted network the 
military uses for many logistic functions.

Prominent Chinese military writers view information operations and 
computer network operations as worthy "supplements to conventional war 
fighting capability and powerful asymmetric options for overcoming the 
superior with the inferior," according to James Mulvenon, Deputy 
Director, Advanced Analysis at Defense Group Inc.'s Center for 
Intelligence Research and Analysis, who was speaking to the U.S. China 
Economic and Security Review Commission.

Fisher lays out this scenario: Imagine a network incursion that 
reprogrammed traffic lights in Hawaii, leaving them red for hours just 
as the Chinese began their invasion of Taiwan. This could "cause a 
simple kind of chaos that would prevent the mobilization of American 
Naval forces," from Pearl Harbor, Fisher postulates.

Or, imagine a more sinister scenario in which China disables American 
global positioning satellites, throwing our navigation and logistics 
into chaos. This scenario seemed a little far-fetched, until the news 
broke in January that China had used a missile to shoot down and 
orbiting satellite. "That would be a military catastrophe," Fisher says.

In the Taiwan scenario military experts disagree about whether civilian 
targets-like the payments systems, or online banking sites-would be part 
of the attack vector. Some say our networks and markets would be at 
risk, but Mulvenon points to Chinese military writings that postulate a 
widespread attack against civilian infrastructure would "stiffen the 
back of a high tech enemy" and make war against China over Taiwan more 
palatable to the American public.

(c) 2007 Bank Technology News and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 
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