Bolton Says US Currently Bolstering Defense Against China’s Cyber Espionage

June 19, 2019 Updated: June 19, 2019

U.S. national security advisor John Bolton outlined ways in which the U.S. administration was tackling cyber attacks from China aimed at stealing U.S. intellectual property, during a recent interview conducted by the Washington Free Beacon.

Bolton said that authorities began strengthening cyber defense since late 2018, after President Donald Trump issued a memorandum authorizing the use of cyberweapons as countermeasures to deter what Bolton called “offensive cyber operations” from China and other countries. Details about this memo were not previously made public.

“You can’t get to a system of deterrence, in cyberspace or anywhere else, unless you convince your adversaries that they will pay a higher price for engaging in their offensive cyber operations than they ever hope to gain,” John Bolton told the publication, according to a June 18 report.

john bolton
White House National Security Advisor John Bolton talks to reporters outside of the White House in Washington on April 30, 2019. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

State-Backed Hacking

Bolton’s remarks come amid a recent surge in national security concerns that have led the U.S. Commerce Department to blacklist Chinese tech giant Huawei, which has close ties to the Chinese military. U.S. Senator Josh Hawley also introduced a bill on June 18 aimed at protecting sensitive academic research from becoming a target of theft by adversaries such as Russia, China, and Iran.

Chinese entities continue to launch attacks in the West. On June 6, for about two hours, a significant portion of mobile device traffic from Europe was rerouted through networks belonging to the state-run China Telecom, a curiously long time that experts suspect to be related to espionage activities.

The Epoch Times previously reported on a 2015 cyber attack in which computer files of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management were accessed, leaving the records of nearly 21.5 million federal workers exposed. Cybersecurity experts later traced the attack to China.

Bolton also highlighted the threat of Chinese economic espionage.

“China’s gotten a stronger economy by pilfering our intellectual property among other things,” Bolton said.

Theft of trade secrets costs the U.S. economy between $225 billion to $600 billion annually, according to a 2017 report by the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property.

A 2013 Pentagon report concluded that “Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage.”

New Defense Strategy

The NSPM-13, short for National Security Presidential Memorandum-13, was adopted in place of a classified directive by the previous administration, so as to eliminate elaborate approval procedures for cyber defense, according to Bolton.

“We’ve got a long way to go. We come off of eight years of total passivity by the Obama administration which has left us very vulnerable,” Bolton said.

He said specifics of the memo are “highly classified,” but revealed that the new presidential directive makes clear of the different levels of authorities “so that different agencies that might conduct cyber offensive know what the objectives are.”

Bolton added that the current administration would act swiftly, after U.S. authorities have “let our guard down” in the past.

“Are we moving as fast as we can now to repair this and to safeguard our telecoms, our artificial intelligence, our communications? Yeah. Absolutely,” he said.

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