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15 May 2009, 11:53

China installs a secure operating system on all military PCs

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A report by the Washington Post claims China is equipping all of its government and military PCs with a version of the Kylin operating system to make hacking attempts by foreign intelligence services more difficult. The information about the highly secure operating system was made public during a US China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing in late April. In addition to the secure operating system, the computers will also contain a special microprocessor to prevent attacks.

The Chinese use of the operating system was discovered during an active attack launched from China. According to a US government security advisor, it would be very difficult for the US to attack Chinese systems, since currently both the tools and the training of US cyber attack units are designed around Windows, UNIX and Linux.

The Kylin (Chinese page link) operating system was developed by China's University of Science and Technology for National Defence, and although it appears the system is claimed to be proprietary, an analysis of the code (Chinese page link) in the kernel indicates that it is in fact a hardened version of FreeBSD 5.3. This has lead to concern over the state of open source development in China. Furthermore, the advisor said that US systems, which use off-the-shelf American software, such as Microsoft products, open source software, and foreign applications, would be less secure and more vulnerable to back doors allowing access during "times of war".

The advisor said that Chinese and Russian cyber attacks were already a daily occurrence, citing one security company who, in March, detected 128 "acts of cyber-aggression" per minute coming from IP addresses associated with China. While the US DoD was the main target for attacks, one small consolation was that the US banking systems and networks were not a target, possibly because the Chinese are too heavily invested in American financial markets.

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