China and Russia “pose the greatest espionage and cyber attack threats” to United States security, countering some of President Trump’s own public statements about Russian threats and intentions, according to the yearly Worldwide Threat assessment report delivered to the Senate Intelligence Committee Monday.
Testimony delivered by CIA Director Gina Haspel, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray before the Senate Intelligence Committee exposed a large swath of threats directed at the United States and those affecting U.S. foreign policy overseas.
Coats noted the growing alliance between Russia and China. He said the adversaries “are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s.”
The report also tethered some of its assessment on policies established over the past two years during the Trump administration.
The report warns that “some US allies and partners are seeking greater independence from Washington in response to their perceptions of changing US policies on security and trade and are becoming more open to new bilateral and multilateral partnerships.”
Threat Assessment and China
Coat’s cited China’s influence as a “remarkable rise,” noting that the nation’s capabilities are “stunning.” He highlighted that China has done this by stealing information from U.S. companies and using espionage to steal products.
“Rule of law and international norms and fairness in trade engagements is not the Chinese model. In countering it, we have to expose it,” said Coats. He referenced the case against Huawei, a telecom giant, which exposed the serious threat from China.
The intelligence community anticipates “that all our adversaries and strategic competitors will increasingly build and integrate cyber espionage, attack, and influence capabilities into their efforts to influence US policies and advance their own national security interests,” the threat assessment outlines.
Adversaries and Strategic Competitors
It states that during the last decade “adversaries and strategic competitors have developed and experimented with a growing capability to shape and alter the information and systems on which we rely.”
“For years, they have conducted cyber espionage to collect intelligence and targeted our critical infrastructure to hold it at risk,” it adds.
Moreover, adversaries are “becoming more adept at using social media to alter how we think, behave, and decide.”
A Blended Threat
A growing body of evidence reveals the “blended threat” of both criminal and state enemies working in conjunction to cyber attack U.S. infrastructure, elections and other important assets.
During the hearing, Chairman Richard Burr, R-NC, questioned the intelligence directors on that growing concern. He asked if U.S. infrastructure, computer systems, were not adequately protected from cyber espionage or threats from adversaries and what was being done to protect it.
“I think it’s a great concern,” said FBI Director Wray.
“Certainly we see a strong interest from the computer intrusion dimension,” he added. “Both from nation states and from criminal hackers and increasingly the two in a blended threat way.”
NSA Director Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone concurred with Wray, adding that data is not only powerful for the information it contains but it can be “weaponized.”
CIA Director Haspel agreed with the assessment of her colleagues but added “from the CIA perspective a big focus for us is finding out how our adversaries are using big data against us and sharing it with our partners.”
Click below to watch the hearing via C-SPAN: