Debate: China is the top cyber threat to the United States

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In this month's debate, two experts discuss whether or not China is the top cyber threat to the United States.

FOR

Jason Glassberg , co-founder, Casaba

While it's probably true that all nations engage in cyber espionage to support their national interests, no other country has targeted and breached the United States to the extent and with the level of daring that China has. Massive operations like Nitro, Aurora, Shady RAT, Night Dragon – and the more recent attacks on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg – show the vast scale, frequency and range of targets that China is able to pull off. While the U.S. certainly faces other cyber foes, and some of these are quite serious, none of them seem to have the breadth and reach that the Chinese do.

The Chinese are into virtually everything – SCADA, telecom, oil/natural gas, public companies, consumer tech companies, universities, nonprofit organizations, military agencies, government departments, etc. – basically every facet of the U.S. economy and our government. What makes this especially dangerous is the seeming unwillingness of the Chinese government to confront this problem publicly.

CON

Dave Aitel, CEO, Immunity

Is China stealing our intellectual property and probing our networks millions of times a day? Yes. Does this make them the top cyber threat to the United States? No. Here's why: 

China's modus operandi is information-gathering, not attacking. They're in the business of gathering intel and stealing secrets, which is bad, but not as bad as destroying that data, sabotaging companies or internal networks, or launching critical infrastructure attacks. China will never go there because its economy is too intertwined with our own. Therefore, its goal isn't to destroy the U.S., just to compete with us. 

The more dangerous threat comes from adversarial countries that we could, at some point, go to war with – think Iran. Just look at what Iran did to Saudi Aramco. This is the real threat, and the one we're least prepared for – i.e., data-wiping a major U.S. bank or taking over and crashing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) into a building in retaliation for U.S. foreign policies and military intervention. 

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