The Washington Times reported on Tuesday that China has installed a secure operating system known as “Kylin” on government and military computers designed to be impenetrable to U.S. military and intelligence agencies.
Congress disclosed the existence of the secure operating system during recent hearings that included new details on how China’s government is preparing to wage cyberwarfare with the U.S.
The operating system’s deployment is significant because it has “hardened” key Chinese servers, according to Kevin Coleman, a private security specialist who discussed Kylin during the April 30 hearing of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission
Kylin has been under development since 2001 and the first Chinese computers to use it were government and military servers that were first converted in 2007, Coleman told the Times.
The system made U.S. offensive cybercapabilities ineffective, given the cyberweapon was designed to block popular operating systems Linux, UNIX and Windows.
However, most US offensive cyberwar capabilities have focused on getting into Chinese government and military computers outfitted with less secure operating systems like Microsoft’s Windows, the newspaper cited.
“Chinese state or state-affiliated entities are on a wartime footing in seeking electronic information from the US government, contractors and industrial computer networks,” Coleman said.
He also warned that the Chinese have also developed a secure microprocessor that, unlike American-made chips, is known to be hardened against external access by a hacker or automated malicious software.
He explained that it makes for a solid platform for defending infrastructure when a hardened microchip and a hardened operating system are added.
Coleman said China is equal to the United States and Russia in military cyberwarfare.
“This is a three-horse race, and it is a dead heat,” he added.
Last year, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission warned that China had developed a sophisticated cyber warfare program and stepped up its capacity to penetrate American computer networks that could compromise sensitive U.S. information.
The commission released a report in November that claimed China was aggressively pursuing cyber warfare capabilities that may provide it with an asymmetric advantage against the United States.
However, China rejected such allegations as well as recent American newspaper reports claiming Chinese hackers were behind a cyber attack on computers linked to the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter project.