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Cyber warfare to be part of Taiwan war drill

The Straits Times, 8 August 2000

Taipei - Taiwan's military will test whether computer viruses can be used as a strike weapon. In the event of attack, viruses will be one form of defence.

Computer viruses will, for the first time, be at the centre of Taiwan's largest annual military exercise, as the island moves to assess its capability as a strike weapon.

The "blue" and "red" teams that will square off later this month in the Han Kuang war games will use computer viruses collected by the military to attack each other's information network, a military spokesman said yesterday.

The blue units represent Taiwanese forces, while red units stand for mainland Chinese forces.

"We have been testing the viruses for several years, and this will be the first time we'll verify them during the Han Kuang," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

During hearings with lawmakers in recent months, military officials have acknowledged the importance of developing cyber defences.

Defence analysts have said that computer viruses could also be a key weapon Taiwan could use in a counter strike on China.

Taiwan's Chief of the General Staff Tang Yao-ming warned last year that China may launch an "information war", including the use of computer viruses to paralyse military command, energy, transportation and banking systems, before an invasion of Taiwan.

China, which regards Taiwan as part of its territory, has repeatedly vowed to take the island by force should it declare formal independence.

Local media had previously said China's People's Liberation Army had simulated computer virus offensives in exercises in Shenyang, Beijing, and Nanjing over the past two years.

The Liberty Times newspaper yesterday quoted a top Defence Ministry official as saying that both the "blue" and "red" units had been exposed to the same types of computer viruses in the military manoeuvres last year.

"How to shield any attack from computer viruses was the major concern last year. Efforts would focus on virus offensive this year," he said.

The paper said the military authorities have worked out about 2,000 types of computer viruses and the anti-virus capability of the military units has been upgraded.

"The military is now able to shield itself from many computer viruses including the "I Love You' virus and scores of its derivatives which swept the world earlier this year," the official said.

The military has not confirmed the exact date of the exercises.

Taiwan's economy relies heavily on computers, and a successful cyber-attack that hit the banking industry and other vital sectors could cause serious damage.

As most nations, including America, will not sell Taiwan offensive weapons, the island has a limited number of ways it can cause damage to the mainland and slow down a Chinese invasion. --AFP, AP