Keeping America Safe / National Security / Politics

Sanction China for Cyber-Attacks

ChinaChina’s cyber-attacks are getting out of hand.  Cyber-attacks are conducted for crime, espionage, and political signaling – by state and non-state actors – to access, disrupt, and destroy information and physical systems.  The more we depend on the electromagnetic spectrum, the higher our vulnerability.  That is why defense and deterrence are both critical.  Biden just sanctioned Russia, trying to deter future attacks.  Why not China?

Here is the nub.  While US cyber-defenses are complex, bridge administrations, and perpetually evolve, political actors, play a role. They must prioritize cyber-defense, as physical outcomes increasingly depend on cybersecurity, and send clear signals – deterrent signals – when state actors violate established, unspoken norms, as Russia and China have recently done.

Russia – through a massive hack called Solar Winds – spent months penetrating nine federal agencies, roughly 100 US companies. China masterminded a major hack – not their worst, the Obama-era theft of 20 million sensitive security files, but a major hit affecting 30,000 organizations across the US, rippling far wider. See, e.g., https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2021/0416/How-Biden-is-boosting-cyber-defenses-against-Russia-and-China; https://www.sify.com/finance/how-solarwinds-cyber-attack-forced-us-to-sanction-russia-news-topnews-veqiyxefgfcdd.html.

Late last year, China also shut down India’s power grid in Mumbai, affecting 20 million, aimed at affecting a China-India border. China threatened a blackout of US Navy ships in the South China Sea, while Russia blacked out Ukraine in 2020, and Israel reportedly just blacked out Natanz, Iran – focus of Iran’s nuclear enrichment. All this portends “cyber-blackout wars.” See, e.g., https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/apr/14/natanz-blackout-a-harbinger-of-future-war-with-ira/.

The main point is more immediate. Defensive cyber-activity, espionage, and political signaling are one thing, offensive cyber-attacks another.  Biden’s national security team sanctioned Russia for the 2020 Solar Winds cyberattack, effects lingering into 2021.  Biden has yet to sanction China for their major 2020 attack, with effects continuing into 2021. Why not?

Imposing public sanctions on Russia – sending a deterrent signal tied to the damage done – was right. But China is no less culpable, arguably more aggressive in pressing Communist aims through offensive cyber-attacks. Their recent attack nobbled European agencies, including the European Banking Authority.

If China is willing to penetrate, steal from, and disrupt major US companies – and historically, US agencies – plus blackout major cities for political advantage, threaten to blackout US Navy ships, hit agencies managing international finance, and become as aggressive in cyberspace as imprisoning millions of Uighurs, militarizing artificial islands in trade routes, suppressing Hong Kong, threatening Taiwan, and – most recently – suppressing Western media in China and Hong Kong, while also starting a pandemic, is it not time for Biden to sanction their cyber-audacity? If not now, when?  See, e.g., https://www.tulsatoday.com/2021/03/19/lessons-of-the-china-india-blackout-war/; https://www.wearethemighty.com/mighty-trending/navy-cyber-siege-chinese-hackers; https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1422278/South-China-Sea-news-beijing-taiwan-military-jets-increasingly-aggressive-war-ont.

While Biden did sanction China for human right violations, retains some Trump trade restrictions, and is using export controls, the only way to deter cyber-war with China – an aggressive, unapologetic promotor of offensive cyber-attacks that disrupt global trade, safety, and security – is to say “enough.”  The time has come to sanction China in a serious way for major cyber-attacks. See, e.g., https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/13/us/politics/china-national-security-intelligence-report.html; https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com.

Historically, Biden has been weak on China. Most understand why, but the stakes are changing – fast.  The importance of deterrence is growing – in every venue, especially cyberspace. China has made no secret of its aspirations, willingness to push the envelope, challenge America.  As the stronger economy, military, and moral power – based on freedom, not fear – we must respond. See, e.g., https://news.yahoo.com/mcfarland-biden-historically-very-weak-190517281.html; https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/nearly-4-in-10-americans-say-biden-is-weak-on-china-new-insider-poll-shows/ar-BB1dUCw4; https://townhall.com/tipsheet/mattvespa/2021/04/08/bidens-weakness-allows-china-to-surround-taiwan-with-air-and-sea-military-exercises-n2587582.

Targeted, credible, no-nonsense sanctions against China for their cyber-attacks are overdue. Boldly working – in public and private – to deter cyber-aggression will also deter other bad acts.  That is what is needed now, as China continues smashing world security norms, running roughshod over Western values, and promoting Communist ideology the way it smashes printing presses in Hong Kong. See, e.g., https://www.ibtimes.com/epoch-times-defiant-after-hong-kong-printing-press-attacked; https://cpj.org/2021/04/masked-men-ransack-epoch-times-printer-in-hong-kong/.

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Hal
6 months ago

Cyber attacks from Chinese sources! Hidin’ Joe Biden will not be sidin’ with that !!! He still owes the payback for all the money/resources he has wangled for himself and his family members! I wonder when Ukraine will chip in the rest of their bribe money to Hidin’ Joe Biden and family!

Stephen Russell
7 months ago

Do so 24/7 right Have too.

Chrystiane Kiser
7 months ago

American news knows and reports of cyber attacks. This critical attack is in the American people’s face. So why aren’t the folks we voted for moving in on this problem? Come on already and put them out of business! I’m not whining. I’m just saying that all I can do is vote and comment.

HocasPocas
7 months ago

Biden cannot afford to see that China is kept in check. His family has too much at risk. They would be taken down the road to prison or even death due to their actions with the enemy

PaulE
7 months ago

RBC,

While I agree with you that China should face the same level of sanctions, if not greater because of their open distain for international law and the rules of international conduct in general, that Russia now faces. However, I have no illusions that the Biden administration would impose any biting sanctions on the CCP for their conduct. Nothing that would truly impact China in any significant way. President Xi owns Joe Biden and has tentacles into several members of his administration and Democrat members of Congress. That much should be abundantly clear to most Americans, who pay attention to what is going on, at this point. So the best you’re likely to see is some moderately tough talk in one or two speeches from administration personnel, but no actual hard actions or policy changes imposed on China. Said another way, all you should expect to see is a lot of empty talk and NO ACTION. Just a little Washington Beltway political theater so they can say they “did something”.

You are correct that Biden has been historically weak on China. I see no reason why he or anyone else in his administration should suddenly take a much more proactive stance to counter the CCP’s aggression on the cyber front. If anything, based on the priorities laid out in Biden’s so-called federal budget proposal, we’re actually sending a clear signal to China that we’re not going to match them to counter their expansion plans. Hong Kong should have been a wake up call, but sadly the Biden administration has simply chosen to hit to hit the snooze button and roll over as they go back to “business as usual”.

HocasPocas
7 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

Business with China, that is

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