Attacks quiet down while China recalibrates its cyber ops

Chinese President Xi Jinping's military reforms include tighter coordination of cyber operations.

Among the reasons for a reported overall decline in successful network compromises by Chinese groups since mid-2014 against U.S. and other western targets are ongoing military reforms that seek to centralize cyber activities, according to industry report that makes the case that China is recalibrating it use of cyber espionage.

The report released this week by threat intelligence specialist FireEye argues that President Xi Jinping's sweeping military reforms, which also include the formation of a U.S.-like regional command structure, are designed in part to develop "a more refined approach to cyber operations."

The analyst noted that Xi's aggressive reorganization of the Peoples Liberation Army elevates cyber operations under a new Strategic Support Force, "placing cyber operations at the same level as other branches of the [Chinese] military." In April, the recalibration included establishment of a Joint Force Command headed by Xi "to better promote integration of cyber capabilities into military operations," FireEye said.

Those moves are expected to promote greater cooperation and fewer individual military and government elements conducting cyber operations against the West. The threat analyst added that these steps are part of a "deliberate integration of cyber operations with military activity."

One consequence of Xi's push to coordinate cyber operations is a marked declined in what the report refers to as "network compromises," defined as a successful remote entry into a western network. "Our data analysis reveals an overall decline in China-based intrusion activity against private and public sector organizations since mid-2014," FireEye reported.

China’s move mirrors the Defense Department’s efforts to more tightly integrate cyber and electronic warfare into the full range of military operations, both defensively and offensively.

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