The U.S. government has been too slow to respond to China’s technological rise and aggression in cyberspace — and it could pay a big price.
That's according to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who blasted congressional dysfunction and mismanagement by both the Trump and Obama administrations for a complacency that allowed Chinese companies to get ahead in next-generation 5G wireless networks.
The risks are big: Intelligence officials fret Beijing could use that position to spy on Americans or sabotage U.S. companies. And if things don’t change, China could also control artificial intelligence, quantum computing and a host of emerging technologies that are vital to U.S. cybersecurity, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said.
“China will not only lead, it will dominate,” Warner warned during a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.
To change this fate, Washington must take action, Warner said. He is calling for a slew of policy changes, including increasing government investing in cybersecurity and technology research and investing in digital protections that make U.S. innovations more difficult to steal.
The executive branch must also throw its diplomatic weight into setting rules of the road in technology and cybersecurity that are a check on Chinese dominance, he said.
And Warner has been urging the intelligence community to share more information about Chinese hacking threats with companies so they can better protect themselves, he said.
“We are not doing our job if we don’t find ways to declassify more of this information and get it out to American business, American policymakers, American academia," he said.
But Warner also warned that those efforts could be derailed by partisan bickering that has made it difficult to pass major cybersecurity changes.
“It didn’t start with Donald Trump, but it’s gotten even worse because Congress has become even more inefficient and the ability of this administration to build international coalitions has become greatly diminished,” he said.
And Warner slammed Trump for suggesting last week he might walk back harsh restrictions aimed at reducing the role of the Chinese telecom Huawei in global 5G networks to gain an advantage in U.S.-China trade negotiations.
That trial balloon came as U.S. officials were “finally starting to make some progress” after months trying to convince allies that Huawei-built 5G networks would create an unmanageable risk of Chinese government spying or sabotage, Warner said.
“If that were to be traded away as a trading chip, the ability for our intelligence community, the ability for our technology community to have any credibility on a going-forward basis would be incredibly diminished,” he said.
Warner also lashed out at Trump for suggesting last week that he might listen to hacked information about his Democratic opponents provided by a foreign adversary.
Those comments, Warner charged, damaged the White House’s credibility and hurt relations between congressional Democrats and Republicans – many of whom want to work with Democrats on cybersecurity but are wary of crossing the president.
The polarization, he said, “can only be turned around if Americans of goodwill of both political parties say that our democracy, and the integrity of that democracy, is more important than the feelings and sensibilities of the current occupant of the White House."
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PINGED: At least 50,000 American license plate numbers that were hacked and stolen from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection contractor are available on the dark web, CNN’s Kevin Collier reported.
A least some of those images came originally from a CBP database, though it’s not clear how many, Collier reported. Others probably came from other customers of the hacked contractor Perceptics, Collier reported.
Perceptics probably shouldn’t have had those license plate images in the first place because CBP “does not authorize contractors to hold license plate data on non-CBP systems,” an agency representative told CNN.
CBP earlier acknowledged the contractors’ breach but said none of the data was available on the dark web — a semi-lawless portion of the Internet that’s not accessible on the World Wide Web.
PATCHED: The Russian government “has uncovered and thwarted” U.S. attempts to hack its critical infrastructure, an unnamed official told Russian state media, according to a Reuters report. The comments follow a New York Times report claiming that U.S. Cyber Command had seeded Russia’s electric grid with malicious software that it might one day use to shut off portions of its adversary’s power.
The official responded to that claim with bravado, saying, “We see and note such attempts. However, we manage to neutralize these actions.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier told Reuters the Times report “ shows the hypothetical possibility . . . of cyber war and military cyber action against the Russian Federation,” Reuters reported.
Trump again disputed the Times report in a tweet last night:
The story in the @nytimes about the U.S. escalating attacks on Russia’s power grid is Fake News, and the Failing New York Times knows it. They should immediately release their sources which, if they exist at all, which I doubt, are phony. Times must be held fully accountable!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2019
PWNED: Justice Department investigators plan to question a Swedish programmer who’s close to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and was arrested the same day Assange was expelled from the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, the Associated Press’s Joshua Goodman and Eric Tucker report.
The investigators didn’t explain why they’re interested in the Swedish programmer, Ola Bini, though he could be a witness in the Assange prosecution, Goodman and Tucker reported.
Bini was arrested in Quito on suspicion of hacking, but various advocacy groups say that his two-month imprisonment rests on a on a thin case. .
“Authorities have asked the U.S. government for assistance from code experts in analyzing more than 30 electronic storage devices that Bini was carrying when he was arrested,” the AP reports.
Cybersecurity news from the public sector:
Cybersecurity news from the private sector:
Cybersecurity news from abroad:
- On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will host a hearing on regional security in Ukraine.