China’s Cyber Ability Seen As Risk to U.S.

Timothy Farnsworth

China’s cyber capabilities have advanced enough to pose a “genuine risk” to U.S. military operations in the event of a future conflict between the two countries, according to a recent report released by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

The report found that the Chinese military has conducted “joint information offensive and defensive operations” that are geared toward disabling communications and logistics command and control systems and that Chinese “information warfare weapons are increasingly being coordinated with conventional weapons units.” They would likely be deployed pre-emptively, that is, prior to any direct U.S.-Chinese conflict, the report said.

The report also found that the United States lacks a policy to determine “appropriate response options” to a large-scale cyberattack in which “definitive attribution is lacking.” China could use this vulnerability in order “to create delays in U.S. command decision making,” the report said.

The report, “Occupying the Information High Ground: Chinese Capabilities for Computer Network Operations and Cyber Espionage,” is a follow-up to the commission’s 2009 report. It includes updates on developments in China’s cyberwarfare strategy and examines new issues related to cybersecurity. Northrop Grumman Corp. prepared both reports on behalf of the commission, which was created by Congress in October 2000 to monitor, investigate, and report to Congress on the national security implications of the relationship between China and the United States.

Several U.S. officials have said the United States needs to improve its cyberwarfare capacity. Last month, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said during a speech in Arlington, Va., that the Pentagon needs to do more to increase its cyberwarfare capabilities and that the United States has fallen behind some other countries.