By Doug Kelly, CEO of American Edge

Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray spoke at the FBI’s Cyber Threat Summit in Atlanta. Warning of China and Russian hacking efforts against America, he shared four stunning facts:

  1. China’s hacking program is bigger than every major nation combined. 
  2. China has stolen more of our personal and corporate data than every nation, big or small, combined.
  3. China’s hacking personnel outnumber the FBI’s cyber teams by a factor of 50 to 1. 
  4. Russia is near the top of the FBI hacker list as well, and is focused on the US energy sector for possible destructive attacks.

A Sample Of China And Russia’s Cyber Surveillance From Just The Past 100 Days

How extensive are the efforts by our foreign adversaries to steal America’s military, commercial, and digital property? Well, in just the past 100 days, China’s hackers have hacked the email systems of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, the U.S. Secretary of State, and other top diplomatic officials while placing malware into critical Navy and Pacific Fleet infrastructure. One official called the malware a “ticking time bomb” because it’s designed to interrupt military operations and cut off power, water and communications to U.S. military bases. 

In addition, China signed a secret agreement with Cuba to build electronic spying stations all across the island just 100 miles off the coast of Florida. China’s hackers broke into the digital networks of hundreds of public and private sector organizations globally, nearly a third of them government agencies including foreign ministries, and Beijing has begun pilfering U.S.-developed artificial intelligence (AI) technology to enhance its own aspirations.

Meanwhile, Russian-government linked hackers recently compromised more than 40 separate global organizations, including government agencies, using a popular digital collaboration service. The U.S. Department of Energy has also been separately targeted by Russian ransomware groups.

How America And Her Allies Need To Respond

To maintain America’s digital leadership and counter China and Russia’s illegal cyber activities, policymakers should employ a three-part approach that draws from elements found in the American Edge Project’s (AEP) recently released digital national security policy framework

  1. Enhance Defensive Measures: The first step requires a comprehensive bolstering of cybersecurity measures. This includes fortifying the defenses of public and private sectors, with a special emphasis on our critical infrastructure. By providing more resources to organizations such as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), we can ensure a more robust defense against potential attacks. In parallel, implementing stringent data security standards across the board is vital, including transitioning to a Zero Trust Network approach, a strategy that treats every user and device as potential threats until proven otherwise, adding an extra layer of security.
  2. Foster International Collaboration And Control Tech Exports: Second, we should foster closer ties with our global allies to prevent adversaries from acquiring advanced Western technologies. A unified approach in enhancing export controls, enforcing stricter sanction policies, and strengthening laws against trade secret theft can slow the technological progress of potential adversaries. Moreover, it is crucial to establish international norms regarding state behavior in cyberspace, ensuring that violations carry significant consequences.
  3. Promote Innovation And Smart Regulation: Finally, we must maintain the competitive edge of America’s private sector tech industry, which not only invests billions in cybersecurity, but is also a critical player in countering the global tech ambitions of our foreign adversaries. We must avoid heavy-handed regulation that stifles innovation, hampers our own technological progress, or inadvertently favors foreign competitors. Instead, expanded public-private partnerships can further harness the innovative capabilities of our tech industry for bolstering cybersecurity and securing the technologies of tomorrow.

To be clear, China and Russia’s cyberattacks on the West aren’t simply attacks on our technology systems. Rather, they are direct assaults on our national security, our economic prosperity, the values we hold dear, and our way of life. America and our allies need to meet this moment, lest we surrender our future to hostile powers.