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Defense experts tell House panel China remains biggest cyberthreat

Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, appears before a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Thursday. He said China remains the biggest strategic threat to the United States. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
1 of 5 | Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, appears before a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Thursday. He said China remains the biggest strategic threat to the United States. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

March 30 (UPI) -- The commander of the U.S. Cyber Command told a House subcommittee Thursday that China remains the biggest strategic threat to the United States.

Citing China's state-sponsored cyber actors, Gen. Paul Nakasone told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, Information Technologies and Innovation that the threat is growing and has global implications.

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"The [People's Republic of China] combines authoritarianism with a revisionist foreign policy and stands as the only competitor with both the intent and power to reshape the global order to its advantage," Nakasone said. "Competition with the PRC takes place on a global scale, and although that contest remains below the threshold of armed conflict, it is nonetheless strategic in its effects and its implications."

Cybersecurity and China have been hot-button topics lately in the wake of Chinese surveillance balloons soaring over the United States and fears that Chinese-owned TikTok can enable spying on American users.

Shou Zi Chew, CEO of ByteDance, which owns the app, has repeatedly tried to downplay concerns about influence operations from China, saying that the company would not allow such a thing. U.S. lawmakers remain skeptical.

On Thursday, Nakasone expressed concerns over the app.

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"If you consider that there's a 150 million people everyday touching this app, this provides a foreign nation with a platform for information operations, a platform for surveillance," Nakasone said. "Certainly, this is a piece that our nation has to consider."

John Plumb, assistant Secretary of Defense for space policy, told the committee the nation's top threat is being driven by Beijing. He specifically mentioned China's state-sponsored cyberactors, who had stolen information in at least six states during 2022.

"Hackers linked to the PRC government have stolen COVID relief funds, conducted ransomware attacks and collected private information and data about American citizens to benefit their espionage efforts," Plumb said.

While not as threatening as China, Plumb and Nakasone said Russia also presents a challenge.

"Russia has attempted to influence elections, through malign activities, in the United States and Europe, and has enabled intelligence collection on a global scale," Nakasone said. "Moscow has a high tolerance for risk and collateral damage in its cyberoperations."

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