China and Russia are prepared to utilize cyberspace in case a war with the US breaks out, according to the US Department of Defense (DoD).
In a new cyber strategy made public last week, the Pentagon warned that its two near-peer adversaries might unleash a barrage of cyberattacks to damage US critical infrastructure and defense networks.
The attacks will reportedly aim to sow chaos, delay military mobilization, and divert precious resources.
“The US is challenged by malicious cyber actors who seek to exploit our technological vulnerabilities and undermine our military’s competitive edge. They target our critical infrastructure and endanger the American people,” the document stated.
It added that defending against these cyber threats is a US DoD imperative.
‘Four Lines of Effort’
The strategy calls China and Russia a “broad and pervasive” cyber-espionage threat capable of secretly monitoring US citizens and manipulating critical infrastructure.
To address these threats, the Pentagon outlined “four lines of effort,” which include disrupting and degrading the capabilities of malicious cyber actors.
The department will also enhance the cyber resilience of the military to ensure that it is ready to fight in contested and congested cyberspace.
Furthermore, the DoD said it will further optimize the training of its cyber operations forces while helping allies build their cyber capabilities.
“We will continue to hunt forward operations and other bilateral technical collaboration, working with allies and partners to illuminate malicious cyber activity on their networks,” the strategy noted.
US Ability Questioned
While China has already said it firmly opposes all forms of cyber hacking, US officials are still wary of Washington’s ability to fend off such attacks.
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly claimed that Beijing would go after critical infrastructure, such as pipelines and rail lines, to induce societal panic.
She also expressed concerns about the country’s ability to repair damage and sustain cyber resiliency once a war erupts.
“Given the formidable nature of the threat from Chinese state actors, given the size of their capability, given how much resources and effort they’re putting into it, it’s going to be very, very difficult for us to prevent disruptions from happening,” she explained.