September 30, 2002

Back in 1999, network administrators at the U.S. Department of Transportation noticed a problem: requests for information bombarding their network server. It looked like a classic denial-of-services attack, which overloads servers and crashes them. The perpetrator appeared to be a server in Maryland run by practitioners of the spiritual movement Falun Gong, which is persecuted in China. In fact, the Falun Gong server itself had come under attack by hackers who sought to disable both sites and leave Falun Gong bearing the blame. But the hackers blundered, leaving a digital address traceable to a computer at 14 East Changan Avenue in Beijing--home to China's Ministry of Public Security.

This act of digital sabotage offered an intriguing glimpse of things to come. China is increasingly embracing such high-tech tactics as a way of destabilizing potential enemies, including the U.S.