The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has established a new squad, known as "the cyber blue team," to improve its capability to detect and fight back against cyber attacks.
Geng Yansheng, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, told a press conference Wednesday that the program was launched in the Guangzhou Military Region in response to the military's demand for increased cyber-defense training.
"Cyber attacks have become an international problem affecting both civilian and military areas. China is relative weak in cyber security and has often been targeted. This temporary program is aimed at improving our defenses against such attacks," Geng said.
"This is just a training program based on our needs," Geng said, warning others not to exaggerate the issue.
The program was first noted in April after the PLA Daily reported that the Guangzhou Military Region had invested tens of millions of yuan in the program, which serves as a platform for cyber-warfare drills.
The region's command selected 30 soldiers to form a "blue team," namely the core of its cyber force. One of the recent drills involved 13 other units from the military region, the report said.
Liu Yong, with China Security magazine, told the Global Times that China needed this move to meet the rising demand for better cyber security, and that this program shows the seriousness with which it is taking actions in this area.
"China has been accused of cyber attacks by some Western countries in recent years, but all these accusations had no substantiating concrete evidence. In fact, China is facing no less cyber attacks than any other country in the world," he said.
"As part of the army's high-tech development plan, cyber defense has vastly improved in the past five years. The program needs to follow up with technology advancement and a better talent pool," Liu added.
In April, the PLA revealed a talent pool plan and said that by 2020, the army would train and recruit highly skilled personnel to handle advanced weaponry, cyber warfare and to carry out unconventional security tasks, according to the South China Morning Post.
To accomplish this, the PLA set out eight major programs, including optimization and readjustment of talent structure, advanced training in technology innovation and the recruitment of personnel for special combat missions, the report said.
According to Liu, the personnel of the future Chinese cyber army would mainly come from PLA schools. Some may also be recruited outside the army as the talent plan gets underway.
China is not the first country to make specific investments in cyber-defense capabilities.
The US formed its Cyber Command (Cybercom) in 2009, subordinate to the US Strategic Command.
Testifying before a US House Armed Services subcommittee, James N. Miller, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said that those possessing the necessary skills for duty with Cybercom "will span a wider range than the standard profile for military service," the American Forces Press Service reported.
According to Miller, the US cyber-security budget request was a little under $3.2 billion for 2011 and "a little over" this figure for 2012.
In December 2009, South Korea announced the creation of a cyber-warfare command, in response to a newly formed North Korean cyber-warfare unit, according to the Korea Times.
A press release by South Korea's defense ministry said that the command works on Internet hacking prevention, cyber security, restoration of damaged networks and carries out military operations in cyberspace in cases of emergency.
In March, a NATO framework for cyber defense was agreed by NATO defense ministers, which is set to act as a starting point for reviewing NATO's Cyber Defence Policy by June 2011.
The Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia conducts research and training on cyber warfare and hosts specialists from sponsoring countries, according to the bloc's website.
Luo Yuan, major general of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, told the Global Times Thursday that with other militaries stepping into cyberspace, it is understandable for China to follow suit.
"Some of these countries' cyber commands or institutes are capable of both cyber defense and attack. The Guangzhou Military Region's program focuses on training, which should not spark undue alarm from the international community," Luo said.