The current cyberthreat environment environment is “quite daunting,” with threats from nation states like Russia and China as well as “non-state actors”, said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper at a recent House Intelligence Committee panel.
Clapper explained the cyber threat landscape as being a complex mix of different countries with differing capabilities and intents to act. For example, China and Russia have “the most formidable” cyber threat capabilities, but aren’t as inclined to attack. And while Iran and North Korea don’t have the same capabilities, they are more prone to launch cyber attacks.
“Russia and China continue to have the most sophisticated cyber programs, trying to continue cyber espionage against the United States, and whether their commitment of last September moderates its economic espionage remains to be seen,” said Clapper.
Clapper talked about the agreement reached last year between the U.S. and China that sought to prevent state-sponsored cyber intrusion, saying the “the jury’s out” on China’s compliance. Russia is the biggest threat to national security in the cyber domain, while China is the second biggest threat, according to the U.S. intelligence community’s annual worldwide threat assessment report.
“We have seen some reduction, but I don’t think we’re in a position to say at this point whether they’re in strict compliance,” said Clapper.
China continues to monitor the U.S. government and U.S. companies, the report noted, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) will continue to monitior compliance.
The report warned that Russia’s cyber posture is growing “more assertive” as the government shows it’s willing to target critical infrastructure and conduct espionage even after actors have been detected.
Threats from other organizations are growing as well, including from ISIL.
“ISIL has used cyber to its great advantage,” Clapper said. “Not only for recruitment and propaganda but also to hack and release sensitive information about U.S. military personnel. As a non-state actor, ISIL displays unprecedented online proficiency.”