China is continuing to conduct cyber espionage operations against the United States, and Beijing’s commitment to a U.S.-China cyber agreement is questionable, the director of national intelligence told Congress on Tuesday.
“China continues cyber espionage against the United States,” James Clapper, the director, testified during an annual threat briefing to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“Whether China’s commitment of last September moderates its economic espionage remains to be seen,” he added.
Clapper identified potential cyber attacks against critical infrastructure and advancing cyber warfare capabilities in nations such as China, Russia, North Korea and Iran as the among the most serious U.S. national security threats.
“China continues to have success in cyber espionage against the U.S. government, our allies, and U.S. companies,” Clapper said in a prepared statement.
Intelligence agencies are monitoring Beijing’s compliance with a September agreement not to conduct commercial cyber espionage. However, Clapper stated that since the agreement, private sector cyber security analysts “identified limited ongoing cyber activity from China but have not verified state sponsorship or the use of exfiltrated data for commercial gain.”
Clapper sidestepped policy questions about what to do about large-scale Chinese cyber attacks. The role of U.S. intelligence agencies, he said, is to inform national leaders of the problem and suggest ways to stop cyber attacks.
China last year was linked to the large-scale theft of some 80 million Americans’ health care records, and also was blamed for pilfering sensitive personal data on 22 million federal workers during cyber attacks on Office of Personnel Management networks. The Obama administration took no action against China for the attacks.
Instead, President Obama in September concluded the informal agreement during a summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to end cyber economic espionage—despite the fact that analysts say most Chinese cyber espionage is carried out by government or military hackers who share the stolen data with state-run companies.
“It’s our responsibility to ensure that our policymakers and particularly the Department of Defense are aware of this hemorrhage, if you will, of technological information that the Chinese purloined,” Clapper said.
Clapper said foreign hackers “remain undeterred from conducting reconnaissance, espionage, and even attacks in cyberspace because of the relatively low costs of entry, the perceived payoff, and the lack of significant consequences.”
On terrorism, Clapper testified that Islamist terrorism is expanding, led by ISIS.
Five years after President Obama, during his reelection campaign, announced that the al Qaeda terrorist group was “on the run,” Clapper called the al Qaeda offshoot “the preeminent terrorist threat” that is expanding from Iraq and Syria, most notably in Libya.
“Violent extremists are operationally active in about 40 countries, seven countries are experiencing a collapse of central government authority, 14 others face regime-threatening or violent instability or both,” Clapper said. “Another 59 countries face a significant risk of instability through 2016.”
More than 36,500 foreign fighters, among them some 6,600 westerners, from more than 100 countries have traveled to Syria since 2012 to join ISIS.
The influx of migrants in Europe—more than 1 million to date—has included ISIS terrorists, he said, and the number of immigrants is expected to increase by another 1.5 million in 2016.
Key threats outlined during the annual intelligence threat briefing included:
- Iran remains the “foremost state sponsor of terrorism” despite agreeing to a nuclear accord aimed at limiting Tehran’s nuclear arms program
- Russian military intervention in Syria has bolstered the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad
- North Korea’s continuing development of nuclear arms and missiles capable of reaching the United States
- Russia’s nuclear force expansion and violation of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty
- Moscow’s build-up military forces in a bid to control the resource-rich Arctic region
- Threats to space systems from China, Russia, and others are increasing with the development of space weapons and anti-satellite capabilities
- Plunging world oil prices threaten the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which is using repressive tactics to prevent mass anti-government protests
- China is threatening international waterways by building up military facilities on disputed islands in the South China Sea
- Russia and China are engaged in threatening intelligence operations in the United States, with Iran and Cuba lesser spy threats
- Islamist insurgents in Afghanistan have expanded influence in rural parts of the country
Read more at The Washington Free Beacon