The Pentagon’s recent report to Congress accusing the Chinese government of cyberespionage against the U.S. military “underscores the urgent need for a cyber information sharing bill,” a top lawmaker said Tuesday.
The Pentagon’s report, which prompted a denial from Beijing, is the first time the defense department has publicly and directly accused China of stealing military secrets through the use of state-sponsored hackers.
Attempts to improve the security of nation’s computer networks, however, has been a battle all its own for both the federal government and businesses waiting for Washington to act.
“The threat from nation state cyber hackers is growing by the day,” House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers told the Daily Caller.
“Banks, financial institutions, newspapers, trade associations, major international businesses, no one is immune,” said Rogers, stating that the “cyber hackers from national states are relentless in their attacks.”
The stakes to secure cyberspace are high, but the game is a complex one.
Lawmakers often warn of a looming “digital Pearl Harbor” catastrophe when talking about cybersecurity, and speak of hackers disrupting physical systems connected to computer networks.
Last week, for example, U.S. officials confirmed that Chinese hackers had infiltrated the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ National Inventory of Dams database.
“The database contains sensitive information on vulnerabilities of every major dam in the United States,” reported the Washington Free Beacon.
The theft of digitally stored state and corporate secrets via cyberespionage also poses a very real security and economic threat.
The Chinese government has long been suspected of engaging in cyberespionage against the U.S. government, has been accused of stealing plans for top secret military drones.
In 2009, Chinese spies were accused of stealing plans for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 joint strike fighter since as early as 2007.
Beijing also accused the U.S. government of cyberespionage in 2010 — a charge that Washington denied.
Governments around the world — including the U.S. — are involved in a multi-billion dollar digital arms black market, purchasing information on software vulnerabilities from security research firms willing to sell their knowledge to the highest bidder.
On Monday, Microsoft confirmed that hackers were able to exploit a vulnerability in several versions of its Internet Explorer browser, allowing them to target the computers of U.S. nuclear researchers and European defense contractors.
“That’s an indication that the attackers may be collecting sensitive military information on behalf of a nation-state,” reported TechNewsDaily.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in March that foreign governments were targeting U.S. systems with with this type of technology.