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Employees of the U.S. National Security Agency check for cyber attacks at the NSA's Threat Operations Centre in Fort Meade, Md. ((Evan Vucci/File/Associated Press))

Germany will set up a national cyber defence centre in 2011 to counter a growing number of cyber attacks aimed at sites in that country, the Interior Ministry announced Monday.

In the first half of 2010, the German government recorded 1,600 electronic attacks — far more than the 900 attacks reported in all of 2009, according to a ministry spokesman.

Most of the attacks originated in China, the spokesman told reporters.

The cyber defence centre will include government and intelligence experts and work closely with the business community, but beyond that, details are few. 

Many governments have declared cyber security to be a growing issue, with the number of reported cyber espionage and denial-of-service attacks up sharply.

The U.S. held a Cyber Storm exercise in October to test its readiness for cyber attacks. In November, several European countries staged a simulated cyber attack to test their vulnerability.  

China a hotbed of cyber warfare

Last month, a report by a U.S. congressional advisory group concluded that China's government, the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese individuals have been hacking into U.S. and other computer systems and are using more sophisticated techniques than in the past.

China was singled out in two of the most widely publicized cyber attacks this year.

In January, Google's chief legal officer announced the company's intellectual property had been stolen in a sophisticated attack originating in China.

Three months later, China Telecom, the Chinese state-controlled internet service provider, briefly hijacked U.S. internet traffic, affecting U.S. government sites that included the office of the secretary of defence and the Senate.

Some experts doubted the re-routing was accidental.

China Telecom denied it was responsible for any cyber attack, and the Chinese government has similarly disavowed any role in cyber espionage.   

North Korea was widely believed to be behind cyber attacks last year on government and other key sites in South Korea and in the U.S.

There have also been several recent orchestrated denial-of-service attacks in Burma, Estonia and Georgia.

Denial-of-service attacks try to disable sites or services by bombarding targets with so many service requests at they can't handle their normal traffic.

With files from The Associated Press