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China, Russia will use cyber to sow chaos if war starts, Pentagon says

Colin Demarest

12 Sept 2023

China and Russia are prepared to unleash a flurry of cyberattacks on U.S. critical infrastructure and defense networks should war break out, according to a Pentagon strategy unveiled this week.

“Cyber issues everywhere — in critical infrastructure, domestically and abroad — are something that’s front and center on the minds of our key senior leaders,” Gregory Touhill, a retired Air Force brigadier general and former federal chief information security officer, said Sept. 11 at a conference in National Harbor in Maryland. His comments came before the publication of the strategy’s summary.

“The United States is challenged by malicious cyber actors who seek to exploit our technological vulnerabilities and undermine our military’s competitive edge,” its introduction reads. “They target our critical infrastructure and endanger the American people. Defending against and defeating these cyber threats is a Department of Defense imperative.”

Defense officials have long considered China and Russia national security hazards. While China poses the most-serious and long-term threat, they say, Russia presents more-immediate concerns. Both countries wield serious cyber arsenals. An International Institute for Strategic Studies report in 2021 placed China and Russia in tier two of its cyber powerhouse rankings. The U.S. sat in first.

“The nation’s constellation of diplomatic and defense relationships represents a foundational strategic advantage,” the Pentagon strategy reads. “In cyberspace, the capabilities of allies and partners combine with those of the United States to enable timely information sharing and interoperability as well as contribute to our collective security.”

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