The cyber challenge posed by China is unlike any challenge ever faced by the U.S. and its allies, said the commander of United States Cyber Command.
Speaking yesterday before the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone told lawmakers that cyber actors in China have used malware to hold at risk critical U.S. infrastructure such as systems that provide water, electricity and fuel to U.S. citizens. He said those efforts are meant to provide options for the Chinese in crisis or conflict.
“When we have discovered them in these critical infrastructures, the first thing that we need to do is to make sure that we get them out,” Nakasone said. “The second thing is that we need to have a vigilance that continues onward. This is not an episodic threat that we’re going to face. This is persistent … we have to operate every day; we have to have a vigilance. We have to have offensive and defensive capabilities.”
Despite those threats, Nakasone said U.S. cyber warriors are more than adequate defenders of the nation’s infrastructure.
“The men and women of U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency continue to maintain our strategic advantage by contesting the threats posed by [China] in cyberspace by using the full scope of our authorities and the full spectrum of our capabilities to impose costs, deny benefits, and encourage restraint on the part of our adversary.”
Nakasone also said the U.S. has its own offensive, cyber capability and making that capability well known serves as a deterrent against Chinese cyber aggression.
“We do have the capability, and we’re very, very good—the best,” Nakasone said. “And in terms of the way that we communicate it, we communicate it in many different ways—from our policymakers who have these discussions to the exercises that we conduct to the real-world examples that, that we do with a series of different partners.”
While Nakasone told lawmakers he believed China is a “near-peer adversary,” he also reassured those lawmakers that he believes the U.S. will maintain its supremacy in cyberspace.
Nakasone has served as the commander of U.S. Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency since May 2018. He relinquishes his position Friday.