By Chris Carney
The United States, EU, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and other influential nations and organizations came together this week to confront the Chinese government for its alleged involvement in a multitude of hostile cyber activities. The attacks included a cynical and far-reaching ransomware attack on a major American technology company – an action that has serious and lasting ramifications on the global cybersecurity landscape.
According to a report by the Washington Post, this collective condemnation is noteworthy: it amounts to the largest group of international actors coming together to publicly denounce alleged Chinese cyber aggressions. In a statement released Monday, the White House accused China of destructive cyber activities, claiming, “China’s pattern of irresponsible behavior in cyberspace is inconsistent with its stated objective of being seen as a responsible leader in the world.”
As China’s technological influence continues to grow, so do threats against America’s increasingly vulnerable cybersecurity infrastructure. Ransomware has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry, and cyberattacks continue to increase in intensity as foreign ransomware criminals remain unchecked. Recent cyberattacks, such as the May 7 attack on the Colonial Pipeline and the July 2 attack on the technology firm Kaseya, comprise some of the most advanced and devastating digital warfare America has ever seen.
These hacks underscore the increasingly persistent and sophisticated nature of cyber threats. Countries such as China and Russia remain eager to exploit vulnerable cyber networks to seize U.S. intellectual property, sensitive military capabilities, and future innovations. Moreover, these attacks seek to pit Americans against one another as they launch disinformation and misinformation campaigns against our political system and its cherished institutions. Using sophisticated social engineering techniques, Russian and Chinese bots are invading America’s cyberspace with the intent of exacerbating societal differences and fomenting needless discord.
The stakes for America’s cybersecurity are high. As lawmakers explore solutions to address the growing threat of cyber and ransomware attacks, they must also remain cautious of misguided proposals that could harm America’s most innovative technology companies that play a vital role in bolstering our cybersecurity infrastructure. As noted in the American Edge Project’s national security policy, “The U.S. technology industry will be instrumental in the effort to detect and deter future cyber threats as part of a broader effort to advance U.S. digital power that upholds the privacy of U.S. citizens’ data through secure networks and cyber protections.”
As such, policymakers must carefully consider the unintended consequences of recent anti-competitive proposals, particularly as they relate to our nation’s economy, national defense, and fundamental values and freedoms. Ill-informed legislation will simply embolden China, Russia, and others to cede our technological edge and provide an avenue for foreign adversaries to dominate the digital landscape.