Nov 16 2008

PLA armor brigade exercise fails due to computer virus

Published by at 9:30 am under Other attacks

According to news.ifeng, an unidentified PLA armor brigade was the victim of a computer virus that caused electronic ammunition resupply orders to show up blank. During the force-on-force, Red and Blue exercise, operations were hampered due to a computer virus that left the main attack force without ammunition resupply.

During the exercise, the Red Army basic command post, command and control station, received information from the main attack force that 3/4 of their ammunition had been depleted. A resupply order was immediately sent to the rear command post. However, after transmission, the order form appeared blank.

Ten minutes later, the main attack force once again sent a request for ammunition resupply. They were told to wait, that the request for resupply had already been processed. In the end, the main attack force had no hope of getting their ammunition. The ammunition was exhausted, people died and the exercise was lost.

NOTE: When the article states that people died, they are speaking in terms of the exercise. There were no actual fatalities.

It was later determined that the exercise failure was brought on by unpatched computer terminals that allowed a virus into the system. In response, the armor brigade established a comprehensive network security group and procedures for handling computer security issues.

Li Jintai, the commander of the armor brigade, located in the Guangzhou Military Region, commented, “when you sharpen your sword, you must not forget to cast your shield.” Commander Li further stated, “Due to patches not being installed, the infecting virus led to the failure of the exercise and this sounded alarm bells for us. When you sharpen your sword, you must not forget to cast your shield. Network technology provides the prerequisite for ‘informationized’ combat, it raises command efficiency. However, if there is insufficient importance attached to information security, a lack of network defense consciousness and methodology, it can leave a crack that your adversary can take advantage of and lead to grave consequences.”

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “PLA armor brigade exercise fails due to computer virus”

  1. Eastwoodon 16 Nov 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Things get particularly exciting when big guns get involved :D

  2. Heikeon 16 Nov 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Strange that the PLA revealed a computer virus killed a live exercise. But yeah, big guns are way cool!

  3. Josephon 17 Nov 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Seems to me to suggest then that cyber security is drastically more important than we are thinking it is. Here is an instance of an entire tank brigade neutralized due to a single computer virus.

  4. Heikeon 17 Nov 2008 at 3:45 pm


    I agree, this does show how vital it is to maintain command and control during operations. The introduction of a virus at critical point, in this case resupply, can cripple a unit.

  5. trailmixon 18 Nov 2008 at 9:55 am

    This smacks of Psyops, I don’t think the PLA would admit to that.

  6. Heikeon 18 Nov 2008 at 12:29 pm


    When I started reading the article, I thought the introduction of the virus was just a part of the exercise scenario to test information security. However, the article never mentioned it as being a part of the plan.

    Still feel kind of weird about this article because I do agree that it is unusual for ANY military to reveal operational vulnerabilities.

  7. Tedon 18 Nov 2008 at 6:11 pm

    “When discussing war, amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics.”

    This is chilling, if you think of it as a live fire cyberwar exercise. It’s so chilling, in fact, that I think that trailmix must be right – if the ChiCom cyber teams really are that effective, you wouldn’t expect to hear a peep.

  8. john.fsckon 19 Nov 2008 at 12:39 am

    Is it known wether that was the malwares intended impact or a side effect of it’s presence?

  9. harlson 19 Nov 2008 at 5:06 am

    That is the million dollar question.

    I feel a bit weird about it also.

  10. Heikeon 19 Nov 2008 at 7:24 am

    You guys are spot on with this question but unfortunately the article never covers the specifics of the virus.

    The whole article appears to be a “teaching moment,” showing how failure to pay attention to detail can cause massive failure. Kind of a, “for want of nail, the shoe is lost, for want of a shoe the horse is lost…” but in the network security realm.

    “For want of a patch the resupply form was lost, for want of a resupply form the brigade was lost….”