Security experts have long suspected China of being behind several high-profile cyber attacks, many of which went after targets in the US. Up to this point, however, the country has vehemently denied being behind such attacks or even having the capability to carry them out.

In a rare update of an influential publication known as The Science of Military Strategy prepared by the People’s Liberation Army, China has finally admitted that it does have cyber warfare divisions – several of them, in fact.

Center for Intelligence Research and Analyst staffer Joe McReynolds notes that this document is produced “once in a generation” so when it comes out, researchers pay attention. The last issue was published in 1999 which tells you just how infrequently it’s put out. This new issue went live in December 2013 but it’s taken a while to trickle down to Western nations.

McReynolds said China has three types of cyber warfare teams. The first is described as a specialized military network force that handles both attacks and defense. Another group is spread out among civilian organizations (like China’s equivalent to the CIA and FBI) that are authorized to carry out operations on behalf of the military.

Last but not least are the external entities. These hackers don’t work within the government or the military but can be called upon if needed. Think of them as hackers-for-hire. When asked by The Daily Beast which group is responsible for attacking American targets, McReynolds said all of them do it.

On one hand, an official admission adds a bit of validity to past accusations. At the same time, however, it could plant a seed of doubt in the minds of other countries when doing business with China. 

Image via Reuters