Wuhan University


Wuhan University (WHU) is designated very high risk for its alleged involvement in cyber espionage and high level of defence research.

WHU is a leading Chinese university subordinate to the Ministry of Education.https://web.archive.org/web/20190814011251/https://www.whu.edu.cn/xxgk/xxjj.htm The university has close ties to the military and has been subject to a joint-supervision agreement between the Ministry of Education and defence industry agency SASTIND since 2016, an arrangement designed to increase its involvement in defence research.https://web.archive.org/web/20190814011517/https://news.whu.edu.cn/info/1002/46364.htm In 2015, WHU planned to spend RMB200 million (AUD42 million) on defence research for the year and described itself as ‘a university with a strong reputation in the defence science and technology field’.https://web.archive.org/web/20190814014525/http://innogst.whu.edu.cn/2011plan/JDiy_data/editor/attachment/2014-12/931418018998787.pdf

WHU carries out defence research in a wide range of fields, including navigation, computer simulation, electronic information, electromagnetics, aerospace remote sensing, materials science, cyber security and explosions.http://innogst.whu.edu.cn/2011plan/JDiy_data/editor/attachment/2014-12/931418018998787.pdf The university is an important site of research for China’s Beidou satellite navigation system.http://www.gipp.org.cn/article/43.html ; https://web.archive.org/web/20190814020059/https://news.whu.edu.cn/info/1003/52406.htm

Aside from being involved in defence research, there are strong indications that WHU has carried out cyber attacks for the People’s Liberation Army. One of the university’s two defence laboratories purportedly established by the Ministry of Education, the Key Laboratory of Aerospace Information Security and Trusted Computing, has been accused by unnamed US and Taiwanese officials of carrying out cyberattacks.https://freebeacon.com/national-security/network-effects/

Major defence laboratories

Designated defence research areas

Wuhan University has at least five designated defence research areas:

However, the total number of defence disciplines at WHU is unknown. In 2017, it was applying for ‘maritime surveying and navigation engineering’ to be designated as a discipline with defence characteristics.http://main.sgg.whu.edu.cn/uploads/soft/170531/2_1035376831.pdf

Economic espionage and misconduct

A 2013 Washington Free Beacon report alleged that WHU’s Key Laboratory of Aerospace Information Security and Trusted Computing (空天信息安全与可信计算教育部重点实验室) is linked to PLA cyber attacks and trains hackers. The article, which cites unnamed US government officials, claims the lab receives funding from the PLA Information Engineering University, the General Staff Department Confidential Bureau, PLA Unit 61478 and 3PLA.https://freebeacon.com/national-security/network-effects/

A 2015 Taipei Times report claimed a cyberwarfare unit in Wuhan University had been carrying out attacks on Taiwan.https://web.archive.org/web/20170820041946/http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2015/03/10/2003613206Citing unnamed Taiwanese intelligence officers, the article claimed that the Wuhan University unit is part of the Sixth Bureau of the former General Staff Department Third Department, the PLA’s signal intelligence service.https://project2049.net/2011/11/11/the-chinese-peoples-liberation-army-signals-intelligence-and-cyber-reconnaissance-infrastructure/ Wuhan University’s Network Attack and Defense Center (武汉大学网络攻防中心) is partnered with the Hubei Military District.https://project2049.net/2011/11/11/the-chinese-peoples-liberation-army-signals-intelligence-and-cyber-reconnaissance-infrastructure/

Noteworthy international collaborations

A professor at WHU’s Key Laboratory of Aerospace Information Security and Trusted Computing, which allegedly carries out cyberattacks for the Chinese military, was a visiting scholar at the University of Wollongong’s Cybersecurity Centre in 2010. While in Australia, she worked on an Australian Research Council project.https://web.archive.org/web/20181018060524/http://www.tangming-whu.cn/ A professor alleged to be the WHU’s laboratory’s liaison with the PLA has also co-authored papers with a Wollongong University professor.The Washington Free Beacon alleged that Huanguo Zhang was the lab’s liaision with the PLA ; see two of his co-authored papers listed here: http://archive.fo/LIjWJ

According to a report in the New Yorker, students from Wuhan University took part in an exchange program at UC Berkeley, where they looked for vulnerabilities and bugs on the US Department of Defense’s website.https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/at-berkeley-a-new-generation-of-ethical-hackers-learns-to-wage-cyberwar

Last updated 18 November 2019. Unclear about any wording? Visit the terminology page.