A Pentagon report revealed Russia and China are poised to initiate damaging cyberattacks on U.S. critical infrastructure with the intent to “sow chaos and hinder military mobilization” in the event of war.
The report, released Tuesday, emphasizes challenges the U.S. faces from malicious cyber actors aiming to exploit technological vulnerabilities and diminish the military’s competitive advantage.
“The United States is challenged by malicious cyber actors who seek to exploit our technological vulnerabilities and undermine our military’s competitive edge,” the Pentagon report decalred.
“They target our critical infrastructure and endanger the American people,” it added. “Defending against and defeating these cyber threats is a Department of Defense imperative.”
The Pentagon’s assessment indicates China presents a more sustained and significant threat.
Russia is a more immediate threat, the Pentagon claimed, citing cyberattacks witnessed in Eastern Europe during the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Russian military and intelligence units have employed a variety of cyberattacks to disrupt Ukrainian military logistics, sabotage civilian infrastructure and weaken political resolve.
A Politico report earlier this year claimed Russia initiated 300 attacks on Ukraine’s security and defense sector.
Russian Federation forces also conducted 400 cyberattacks on commercial, financial and telecommunications sectors, according to the report, which noted 500 attacks targeting government entities.
The Pentagon’s report notes that even though the outcomes of these Russian cyber efforts were limited, they could expose the U.S. and its allies to similar cyber threats, especially during a critical situation.
Defense News claims both China and Russia possess significant cyber threats to national security, but a 2021 International Institute for Strategic Studies report ranked them below the U.S. in cyber capabilities.
Mieke Eoyang, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy, told reporters his department considers China the “pacing challenge in the cyber domain” and acknowledged the substantial cyber threat Russia poses.
“I think prior to this conflict, there was a sense that cyber would have a much more decisive impact in warfare than what we experienced,” Eoyang said.
“What this conflict has shown us is the importance of integrated cyber capabilities in and alongside other warfighting capabilities,” she continued. “And that is consistent with the approach in the [National Defense Strategy] on integrated deterrence and is an important lesson for us to think about — that cyber is a capability that is best used in concert with those others and may be of limited utility when used all by itself.”
The report elaborates on the Chinese Communist Party’s perspective.
“The Chinese Communist Party sees superiority in cyberspace as core to its theories of victory,” the report claims, adding CCP espionage jeopardized key defense networks and broader U.S. critical infrastructure.