A draft report from the US-China Economic Security and Review Commission indicated that China is becoming the “most threatening actor in the cyberspace.” According to the report, the hackers in China and its intelligence community are increasingly using advanced techniques and equipment, such as apertures and sensors to infiltrate the military computers of the United States, including its defense contractors.
According to the report from Bloomberg, the members of the commission noted China’s persistence and advancements in exploitation activities over the past year. According to them, China poses an increasing challenge to the information system and its users, and its penetrations in the defense systems threaten the ability and readiness of the U.S military to operate.
An anonymous U.S. Intelligence official said to Bloomberg that China’s efforts in infiltrating the U.S. military are relentless, and the risks involve attempts to blind or disrupt the U.S. intelligence and communications satellites, weapons targeting systems, and navigation computers.
The members of the commission who prepared the report heightened their warnings against cyber attacks, and emphasized the rising risks, not only to the U.S. military, but also to the critical industries, including electric utilities, pipelines, and telecommunications.
According to the report, over the past year China used “zero-day” attack, a basic and straightforward technique in exploiting software vulnerabilities. They use stolen digital certificates as a disguise to make malware look legitimate to users. Victims of the attack have no way of fixing the problem immediately.
The commission’s report emphasized, “Irrespective of the sophistication, the volume of exploitation attempts yielded enough successful breaches to make China the most threatening actor in cyberspace.”
The report cited that the infiltration in the computer systems of the U.S. government and military seemed intended to gather intelligence or technology, instead of launching an attack. According to them, penetrations in the U.S. military system could become “disruptive or destructive"; and it requires a thorough investigation to evaluate potential damage.
Last month, the White House, confirmed that a cyber attack was launched to infiltrate one of the most sensitive computer networks of the government. The hackers, who were allegedly using servers in China, used spear phishing to access the computer networks of the White House Military Office (WHMO), which handles the most sensitive communications, including the government’s strategic nuclear commands. The White House said there were no indications of ex-filtration of data occurring; the attack was identified, and the system was isolated.
In a previous speech, last month, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned that the Chinese and Russian capabilities and cyber threats could be devastating, just like the terrorist attacks in September 11, 2001.