More On: cyberwar
Your data has most likely already been acquired by Chinese-backed hackers.
The prevalence of cybercrime is increasing. Indeed, by 2025, the global yearly cost of cybercrime is expected to reach $10.5 trillion. The cybercrime economy is currently larger than the GDP of Germany and Italy combined. The United States is the world's most popular target for cyber-attacks.
Many of these attacks are sanctioned by the Chinese government. Experts believe that the threat posed by Chinese state-sponsored hacking has never been bigger than it is today.
According to Richard Stiennon, chief research analyst at IT-Harvest, "China is considerably more visible in their cyber-attacks" than the US. Since Titan Rain, a concerted attack on government organizations in the United States and the United Kingdom that began in 2003, China has "been identified penetrating government and industry networks to steal data." Chinese hackers, according to Stiennon, operate "with impunity, relying on plausible deniability and a lack of resistance to continue."
He did, however, contend that the United States is "much more capable than China." Why isn't the United States retaliating? It does, he claims, but it "targets various entities," especially "military and political entities." Of fact, China has the same kinds of objectives, notably the military and political entities of the United States. For years, Chinese hackers have been stealing US defense secrets.
Make no mistake: China and the United States are fighting a cyberwar. Although Stiennon emphasized that the United States is capable of "managing itself," it's tough to be confidence in the face of reports of Chinese state-sponsored hacking groups successfully accessing U.S. federal agencies.
For example, earlier this month, the cybersecurity firm Mandiant released a report detailing how Chinese hackers had attacked and continue to compromise government entities. Data, they say, is the new oil. Chinese hackers, according to Mandiant, have done "extensive reconnaissance and credential harvesting." China has already taken the personal information of 80 percent of American adults, totaling more than 200 million people. Your data has most likely already been collected by Chinese-backed hackers, reader.
Cyber-attacks are not only growing more widespread, but also more sophisticated. According to Glenn S. Gerstell, senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former NSA general counsel, this is bad news for the United States. He claimed that the United States is just "not ready to defend as a country."
According to Gerstell, "cyberthreats are developing quicker than our ability to respond to them," and the US should "impose some form of necessary remedy." After all, national security is at risk, especially given the internet-enabled vulnerabilities of hospitals, airports, roads, and banks. For far too long, Gerstell cautioned, the United States has "been reactive," always avoiding its cyber duties.
Last year, I reviewed the vital infrastructure and cyber capabilities of the United States. Little has changed since then. What can be done? Sanctions are popular these days, so I asked Ian Bond, an economic affairs expert, if the United States should sanction China for its cyber provocations. "Intrusions for espionage objectives [commercial or against the state] are irritating, but part of the usual business of states," he stated.
Offensive action, on the other hand, such as "strikes that damage essential national infrastructure," may rise to the level of an act of war if victims result, according to Bond. "Attribution is frequently difficult and cannot usually be determined quickly," if at all. "Like-for-like reprisal is uncommon outside of a scenario in which a war is already in progress." However, if a state is attacked in this manner during peacetime, it may apply sanctions if it is certain of the source of the attack."
Another expert on these topics, Gary Hafbauer, told me that cyber-attacks fall in between provocation and outright war. When it comes to hacking, he believes "reciprocity is required." According to Hafbauer, he wants the NSA to "hack back" to the best of its abilities. But there's more bad news: in 2014, Chinese hackers seized an NSA hacking tool, which they then used for years, according to WIRED magazine. Three years later, in 2017, bad actors successfully hacked NSA hackers. Even the NSA's top brass appears to be struggling against Chinese, Russian, and Iranian-backed hackers.
Gerstell urged "all U.S. businesses and state and municipal governments to strengthen their cybersecurity."
"The future of cyberwarfare will resemble electronic warfare today," he added. "All battles will have a second front as opposing parties try to commandeer and destroy the other's ability to communicate, coordinate, target, and gather surveillance imagery."
Is the United States ready for that future? In reality, we don't know. China, on the other hand, appears to be.