Germany has prepared a special cyber warfare unit of its military to conduct offencive operations against computer hackers, who attack key installations or engage in espionage activities, defence ministry has said.
After more than six years of preparations, the special unit of IT specialists in uniform is now in a position to ward off hacker attacks and to mount counter attacks, media reports here said quoting ministry officials.
The cyber troops of the Computer Network Operations (CNO) have reached the initial capability for a cyber warfare on the computers of an adversary, the reports said.
The military began to deal with the threat from internet 20 years ago and a rapid reaction centre was set up at the Federal Office of Information Management and Information Centre of the army for speedy defence against cyber attacks.
The CNO, which operates independently from a location near Bonn, has not been deployed so far, the reports said.
The threat from the internet for its national security has been a main concern for the German government, especially in the wake of intelligence reports that hackers from China broke into the computers of ministries and other government departments to gain access to secret political, military and economic information.
The German interior ministry last year set up a cyber defence centre to step up the fight against the hackers by coordinating the activities of various organisations, including the intelligence services, in combating such crimes.
Germany's domestic intelligence service has been noticing a growing interest among Chinese hackers to infiltrate the government's computer network since 2005 and in most cases Chinese government departments were behind the attacks.
The German government is concerned that besides the espionage activities, hackers might also launch cyber attacks to cripple the computer systems of power plants, power supply systems, pipelines or other public utilities.
The latest high-profile cyber attack was the discovery of malware known as " Flame", which sought data from Iran.
The " Stuxnet" attack against Iran's nuclear installations in June, 2010 marked the first professional deployment of such a computer virus. It was the first computer programme capable of taking control of large industrial plants.
On-line security experts say there are many similarities between the two infections.
Last year, hundreds of hackers paralysed the web sites of MasterCard, Visa and other companies in retaliation to their refusal to deal with the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks.
Germany's initiative to build up its cyber warfare capabilities is also intended to reduce its gap with its main NATO partners such as the US, France and Britain, which are far ahead in digital warfare, the reports said.