Depending on who’s telling the tale, US near-peer adversaries China and Russia may have accomplished a significant paradigm shift in their cyber operations by targeting civilian infrastructure.
Or they may simply be doing the same sorts of things Washington is doing with its own cyber warfare plans? While the USA and Western countries consider civilian infrastructure off-limits, its adversaries do not abide by those principles.
In the ongoing cyber-war between the USA and China, the USA has exposed extensive Chinese cyberattacks aimed at critical infrastructure to disrupt the former’s military rescue operations in the event of an attack on Taiwan from the Chinese mainland.
The Joe Biden administration is hunting for malicious computer code it believes China has hidden deep inside sensitive networks controlling power grids, communications systems, and water supplies that feed US military bases around the world.
The NY Times notes that the first public hints of the Volt Typhoon malware surfaced in May when Microsoft detected mysterious code in Guam’s telecommunications systems and elsewhere in the USA.
US officials cited in the report also note that the malicious code could have far more devastating effects, as civilian businesses and homes depend on the same infrastructure.
The malware’s discovery touched off a series of meetings in the White House Situation Room involving officials from the US National Security Council, the Pentagon, Homeland Security and various spy agencies to understand the scope of the problem.
However, the US regime may also be guilty of cyber-warfare practices similar to those it accuses China of carrying out.
In May, China’s National Computer Virus Emergency Response Center (CVERC) and the Chinese cybersecurity company 360 accused the USA of using powerful cyber-weapons to orchestrate attacks on critical information infrastructure.
Such as, aerospace, research institution, oil and petrochemical industries, large internet companies, and government agencies in various countries, with such hostile activities traceable as far back as 2011, according to a report by the South China Morning Post.
The Chinese also said information collected from foreign governments, companies, and citizens by Google, Microsoft and Facebook would be provided to US decision-makers for national-security intelligence and security risk assessments.
They said the CIA has been instrumental in fomenting political unrest in countries at odds with US interests, and that the US spy agency has provided political opposition movements with tools to circumvent censorship.
For example such as, such as the Tor browser, and communications tools for organize protests, such as Stampede – software that has enabled tactical-level command and control.
The tit-for-tat cyber-espionage between the USA and China illustrates the danger of proliferating covert cyber operations.
In a 2015 article for Clingendael Institute, Dutch agents Sico van der Meer and Frans Paul van der Putten argued that the US retaliation approach against major cyberattacks would be detrimental to international stability.
Van der Meer and van der Putten cited an obvious risk of escalation, normalization of covert retaliation against governments that are suspected of being involved in cyberattacks and proliferation of cyber threat actors – making cyberspace dangerous and unstable for all.
Further, they suggested that US allies urge the USA to avoid seeking cyber deterrence through retaliation against China and other countries, especially Russia, which is the master in electronic warfare.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point Global Electronic Warfare News 2023.