The annual publication of the worldwide threats to national security by the United States Intelligence Community has recognized Chinese cyber operations as one of the foremost threats to American national security.
The report highlights China, along with Russia, Iran, and North Korea, as one of the four countries with the most significant potential to disrupt U.S. national security. The report states that China's most significant challenge is its ability to directly alter the rules-based global order across numerous regions and realms as a near-peer competitor, which is increasingly striving to transform global norms, thereby posing a potential threat to its neighboring countries. Beijing is willing to use cyber operations and economic espionage to bolster its domestic technological capacities and knowledge, according to the report.
China's control over vital supply chains for batteries, critical minerals, pharmaceuticals, less advanced semiconductors, and solar panels poses a major threat to American national security. The report warns that China is positioning military assets in numerous U.S. critical infrastructure networks, such as oil and gas pipelines and railway systems, which could be disrupted in case of an imminent conflict.
The report also cautions that Beijing is capable of conducting cyberespionage operations to gather intelligence and carry out influence operations. Additionally, China's cyber operations could be aimed at interfering with Western allies or influencing elections, according to the report.
Russia also presents a significant danger to American national security, with its cyber activity surrounding the war not meeting expectations, according to the report. However, the report acknowledges that Russia remains a top cyber threat as it continues to refine and use its espionage, influence, and attack capabilities. It cautions that Russia views cyber disruptions as a foreign policy lever to shape other countries' decisions and is prepared to employ them.
The report further highlights that Iran has a growing expertise and willingness to conduct aggressive cyber operations against nations with stronger capabilities. North Korea is still using cyberattacks, social engineering, and cryptocurrency heists to evade sanctions and acquire knowledge to develop missiles and weapons of mass destruction.
The report concludes that predicting the exact geopolitical risks confronting the United States and its allies has become increasingly intricate in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. The United States must collaborate with its allies to mitigate these risks and safeguard its critical infrastructure from foreign cyber threats.