According to a new study, China’s advantage as a cyber power is being weakened by poor security and weak intelligence analysis. The study predicts that Beijing will not be able to match the U.S. cyber capabilities for at least a decade.

The study published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies on Monday comes as a series of hacking activities highlight the growing threat Cyber ​​espionage By hostile countries.

In December last year, US officials discovered that the Russian foreign intelligence agency SVR hijacked the SolarWinds software to infiltrate government targets in Washington, including the Department of Commerce and the Department of Treasury. Three months later, Microsoft’s email software was hacked by suspected Chinese government-backed hackers to investigate US NGOs and think tanks.

IISS researchers rank countries based on a range of network capabilities, from the strength of the digital economy and the maturity of intelligence and security functions to the degree of integration of network facilities and military operations.

Like Russia, China has expertise in offensive cyber operations—online espionage, intellectual property theft, and false propaganda against the United States and its allies. But according to IISS, compared with their competitors, both countries are hindered by relatively loose cybersecurity.

Therefore, only the United States is ranked by think tanks as the “top” cyber power, with China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, and Israel ranking second. The third tier includes India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, North Korea, Iran and Vietnam.

Greg Austin, an IISS expert on cyber, space and future conflicts, said that media reports only focus on the positive aspects of China’s digital progress—such as its desire to become a global leader in artificial intelligence—that has led to “exaggerated” Views of its network strength. “In all respects, the development of China’s cyber security skills is worse than in many other countries,” he said.

According to the report, Beijing’s focus on “content security” – restricting politically disruptive information on its domestic Internet – may have weakened its supervision of the physical networks that transmit this information. IISS also stated that China’s analysis of cyber intelligence is “not as mature” as the intelligence allies of the Five Eyes Alliance (the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) because it is ideologically driven and “increased by… . The political goals of the leaders of the Communist Party”.

Austin said that the information age is reshaping global dynamics, so traditional powerhouses such as India and Japan are beginning to lag behind third-tier network operators, while smaller countries such as Israel and Australia have built cutting-edge network skills and pushed them to the second tier. .

According to IISS, what makes the United States stand out in the first echelon is its unparalleled digital industrial foundation, encryption expertise, and ability to perform “complex, surgical” cyber attacks on adversaries. Unlike rivals such as China and Russia, the United States also benefits from close alliances with other cyber powers, including its partners in the Five Eyes Alliance.

However, the United States and its allies are increasingly at risk of ransomware attacks-such as those Colonial pipeline with Health Services in Ireland Last month-initiated by Russian criminal hackers, these hackers are not under the command of the state, but their activities are clearly tolerated by the authorities.

Robert Hannigan, the former director of British intelligence agency GCHQ and current senior director of cybersecurity company BlueVoyant, said that he agrees with many of IISS’s conclusions, but questioned the extent to which Beijing and Moscow will be hindered by weak cyber defenses.

Hannigan said: “Although Russia and China are indeed less developed in cybersecurity, their need for cybersecurity is not so urgent compared with open Western economies.” “This threat is not symmetrical: Western economies. The body is being besieged by cybercriminal groups based in Russia that are tolerated or permitted by it-the reverse is not true.”

He added that although Russia knows that the West will not indiscriminately target critical civilian infrastructure in a destructive way, Russian institutions are “qualified to act recklessly.” “This in turn requires the West to improve cyber security,” he said.

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