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Oct news 2015


ISTS Information Pamphlet



Institute for Security, Technology, and Society
Dartmouth College
6211 Sudikoff Laboratory
Hanover, NH 03755 USA
HomeEvents >

Decoding the Virtual Dragon

Timothy Thomas, LTC (Ret.), Foreign Military Studies Office
Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In cooperation with the Dickey Center for International Understanding

AbstractTim Thomas

Over the past several years, Chinese information warfare (IW) and information operation (IO) capabilities have become more visible and troubling. These capabilities have been used actively in a series of events aimed at a variety of countries. It is unknown exactly how many Chinese IW reconnaissance or offensive events have transpired or the actual intent of these incursions. Several episodes have leaked into the public domain. Among the most notable are:

  • Espionage conducted against the US Department of Defense (DoD) computers, reported in Time magazine. The report concerned a Chinese cyber espionage ring that federal investigators code-named Titan Rain. Its target was DoD computers.
  • Chinese attempts to blind a US satellite, reported in Defense News. The report discussed high-powered Chinese laser attacks on a US satellite.
  • Chinese hacker attacks on the US Naval War College's net capability, reported in Federal Computer Week. This attack purportedly originated from China and took systems off-line.
  • The Chinese destruction of an old Chinese weather satellite with an antisatellite missile, reported on National Public Radio. The report cited a Beijing People's University commentator. He noted that "satellite killing technology is logical in the development of missiles and an IW capability."
  • Hacker attacks against Japan or Taiwan, reported in the Japanese and Taiwanese press.  The reports noted that these attacks were retaliations for Japan's anti-Chinese interpretations of history and for Taiwanese claims for independence, respectively.

The growing intensity of these IW attacks demands a closer look at China's IW/IO philosophy and how it has evolved. This lecture will provide an overview of the development of Chinese IW and IO theory and its relation to strategy and comprehensive national power. Of particular interest is how IW has imbedded itself into the peacetime strategic activities of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and IW's potential use as a preemptive strategy


Timothy L. Thomas is an analyst at the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He retired from the U.S. Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in the summer of 1993. Mr. Thomas received a B.S. from West Point and an M.A. from the University of Southern California. He was a U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer who specialized in Soviet/Russian studies. His military assignments included serving as the Director of Soviet Studies at the United States Army Russian Institute (USARI) in Garmisch, Germany; as an inspector of Soviet tactical operations under CSCE; and as a Brigade S‑2 and company commander in the 82nd Abn Division. Mr. Thomas has done extensive research and publishing in the areas of peacekeeping, information war, psychological operations, low intensity conflict, and political‑military affairs. He is the assistant editor of the journal European Security; an adjunct professor at the U.S. Army's Eurasian Institute; an adjunct lecturer at the USAF Special Operations School; and a member of two Russian organizations, the Academy of International Information, and the Academy of Natural Sciences.

Books published by Mr. Thomas include the following (all are US Government publications and not available in bookstores):

  • Dragon Bytes: Chinese Information War 1995-2003
  • Cyber Silhouettes, 2005 book on terrorist, Chinese, Russian and US information operations concepts, used currently as a text at several armed forces colleges
  • Decoding the Virtual Dragon, 2007
  • The Dragon’s Quantum Leap, forthcoming 2009


Presentation slides [PDF]

Last Updated: 4/21/10