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China is building cyber ranges

A report from the University of Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology goes deep into China’s “cyber ranges,” facilities built by the Chinese government where cybersecurity experts from academia and the private sector can test new tools, practice attack and defense, and evaluate the cybersecurity of a particular product or service. This report found:

  • China’s cyber ranges facilitate joint exercises between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and civilians. One competition hosted each year in Chengdu aims to replicate the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Locked Shields exercise. Teams include representatives from the military, private cybersecurity firms, and critical infrastructure operators. Separately, a defense state-owned enterprise (SOE) makes a “comprehensive space scenario range” available to civilians at an annual cybersecurity competition. Each of these examples demonstrates China’s implementation of military-civil fusion in the cyber domain.
  • Some cyber ranges allow hackers to practice attacking and defending critical infrastructure systems. Two ranges covered in this report provide users with training on industrial control systems within the cyber range; one of which purportedly engages in “national offensive and defensive exercises.” The Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s 2022 unclassified annual threat assessment found that China was “almost certainly […] capable of launching cyber attacks that would disrupt critical infrastructure services.” These ranges could allow rehearsals and testing of these types of attacks in the future.
  • Peng Cheng Laboratory in southern China is using a supercomputer to research artificial intelligence’s (AI) application to cybersecurity. The lab’s partners include the National University of Defense Technology, China’s Key Laboratory of Science and Technology for National Defense, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, a university with ties to military hacking teams. The lab has quickly earned the respect of longtime experts in China’s cybersecurity community.

Read more: Downrange: A Survey of China’s Cyber Ranges

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