The US Department of Defense (DoD) has outlined in its 2023 Cyber Strategy that China’s cyber activity is viewed as a strategic maneuver to gain an advantage in the event of a military conflict with the US. This analysis sheds light on China’s use of cyber attacks to counter US military power and weaken the combat capability of the Joint Force .
The DoD report acknowledges China’s extensive campaigns of cyber espionage, theft   , and compromise against critical US infrastructure  , including the Defense Industrial Base (DIB)   . It emphasizes that China’s cyber activity extends beyond intelligence-gathering and encompasses preparations for war. Furthermore, the report recognizes the potential for China to launch destructive cyber attacks on the US Homeland during times of war, with the aim of impeding military mobilization and disrupting key networks . This aligns with assessments made by Microsoft and others regarding the Volt Typhoon attacks , which specifically targeted critical infrastructure in the US .
To address these threats, the DoD’s strategy underscores the need to enhance resilience and make it more challenging for adversaries to disrupt essential services. This will be achieved through a comprehensive “whole-of-government” effort and by leveraging public-private partnerships. The report also emphasizes the importance of close collaboration with allies and private industry partners to strengthen cyber defenses.
However, unlike in Europe where NATO has a well-established cyber defense presence , there is currently no equivalent organization in Asia to counter China’s cyber activities. This absence of a NATO-sized coalition in Asia poses challenges for coordination and managing efforts and priorities .
The implications of China’s cyber activities are significant. The DoD’s strategy highlights the urgency to increase resilience and fortify essential services against potential disruptions. It also underscores the importance of fostering collaboration with allies and private industry partners to bolster cyber defenses .
Looking ahead, it is crucial for the US to address the lack of a NATO-sized coalition in Asia to effectively counter China’s cyber activities. This will require continued efforts to coordinate and manage priorities, as well as the development of a comprehensive China strategy by the National Security Agency. By taking these steps, the US can better mitigate the impacts of China’s cyber activities and safeguard its national security interests.