China Admits to Assembling a 30-Strong Team of Elite Cyber Commandos

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Earlier this month, the mythos of SEAL Team 6’s elimination of Osama bin Laden stole headlines by giving ordinary citizens a glimpse into the shadowy penumbra of ultra-elite warfare.

However, more likely than not, many of the future’s battles won’t be fought in thinly disguised mansions around Abbottabad; rather, war will be waged in the infinite stretches of cyberspace.

Which is what makes China’s admitting to having invested in its own “Blue Army” – a 30-strong commando unit of the country’s best cyberwarriors – so notable, if unsurprising.

Though reportedly designed to protect the People’s Liberation Army from cyber attacks, the prospect of swift and anonymous offensives carried out on virtual fronts would certainly make other world leaders uneasy, especially considering the country’s vast talent pool and the government’s willingness to open its pocketbook.

TIME’s worldview blog, Global Spin, reports:

Described as an “online blue army” by a Ministry of National Defense spokesman on May 25, the Chinese force is supposed to protect the country from cyber attacks. The PLA Daily, a military-run newspaper, reported that the digital squad would be based in China’s southern Guangzhou military region and would enjoy a budget in the tens of millions of yuan. (10 million yuan is equivalent to $1.54 million.)

The Blue Army’s construction could point to a tactical shift in the way world powers militarize, at least in public forums and on the international stage. “The internet has no boundaries, so we can’t say which country or organisation will be our enemy and who will attack us,” says Xu Guangyu, senior researcher at Arms Control and Disarmament Association, who affirms to the Australian that the China-backed cyber warriors are only in place for defensive purposes. “We won’t initiate an attack on anyone.”

But this forming of The Blue Army isn’t the PLA’s first foray into the digital space. As Global Spin points out:

“Earlier this month, the Nanjing military region announced that it had jointly developed a computer game called ‘Glorious Mission’ [sidenote: we wrote about it here] that allows gamers to defend China’s honor in a military confrontation. Among the apparent enemy combatants? American soldiers.”

China’s mobilizing of cyber talent should come as surprise to few – and they’re hardly alone. Earlier this year, the U.S. Navy unveiled a massive online war game to crowdsource intelligence for catching real life pirates, proving that the so-called “battlefield of the future” is likely already here.

(via Global Spin)

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