Leaders of six US intelligence agencies testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on January 29, asserting that cyber-threats have evolved, particularly coming from China and Russia.
At issue is the collection and protection of data that can be leveraged in cyber-warfare, a concern expressed by the US Air Force as well. “We are now living in a new age – a time characterized by hybrid warfare and weaponized disinformation, all occurring within the context of a world producing more data than mankind has ever seen,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, according to Air Force Magazine. “Tomorrow, it’s going to be deep fakes, artificial intelligence, and a 5G-enabled internet of things with billions of internet-connected consumer devices.”
In his prepared opening stated, director of national intelligence Dan Coats wrote, “Our adversaries and strategic competitors will increasingly use cyber capabilities – including cyber espionage, attack and influence – to seek political, economic and military advantage over the United States and its allies and partners.”
Among the foreign adversaries that have expanded their cyber-espionage and intelligence activities are China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. According to Coats, China and Russia pose the greatest threats to the US, though Iran and North Korea remain paramount concerns.
“At present, China and Russia pose the greatest espionage and cyber attack threats, but we anticipate that all our adversaries and strategic competitors will increasingly build and integrate cyber espionage, attack and influence capabilities into their efforts to influence US policies and advance their own national security interests,” Coats wrote.
Those threats also extend to the US military and critical infrastructure. “China remains the most active strategic competitor responsible for cyber espionage against the US Government, corporations, and allies. It is improving its cyber attack capabilities and altering information online, shaping Chinese views and potentially the views of US citizens.”
The potential that adversaries will again attempt to meddle in the 2020 presidential election remains a top concern among intelligence leaders who anticipate that “US adversaries and strategic competitors almost certainly will use online influence operations to try to weaken democratic institutions, undermine US alliances and partnerships and shape policy outcomes in the United States and elsewhere.”