China is becoming increasingly aggressive in its attempts to replicate Russia’s cyber and information warfare, a former US national security chief has warned.
Mike Rogers, a retired admiral and senior US intelligence figure, suggested Beijing was inspired by Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election campaign.
“The Russians, they have done this for decades. There’s a reason why they’ve been doing this for decades. They believe it is effective and achieves or at least improves the situation they’re trying to address,” he told the National Press Club.
“You saw that really play out, you know, just in the near-term in the 2016 election process.
“I believe China‘s looked at that and decided – this whole information influence strategy and idea, there’s something there we need to be paying attention to.”
Over the past 18 months, China has become “more aggressive” in its attempts to run influence campaigns.
“I would argue the Russians are still bigger in scale,” Mr Rogers said.
Mr Rogers was simultaneously head of NSA and the US Cyber Command under both Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
During the past two US election cycles, the unit has worked together to identify and combat foreign influence campaigns.
He pointed to Ukraine‘s cyber defence as an example of combating Russian influence.
Both governments acknowledged early on they did not have the capacity to continue strikes and were outsourced to the private sector and hackers globally.
“ (Ukraine, Ukrainian) went to the world and said the exact same thing,” he said.
“We don‘t care if you’re Ukrainian, if you want to make a difference, if you are somewhere out there in the world and you believe that you have a set of skills in cyber, whether it be for purposes of hacking or purposes of defending, we’ve got a place for you.
“For the first time in an armed conflict we‘re seeing the two primary combatants crowd source cyber offence and cyber defence. We have never seen that before.”
Mr Rogers now works for CyberCX, which provides cyber secure training to company boards and executive teams.
His visit comes after Australia signed a landmark security deal with the US.
He said while much of the discussion had been on the nuclear submarine arrangement, the focus should have been on the ability to share information and cyber skills.
“The reality is cyber has become a core dimension of a nation‘s national security as well as its economic competitiveness,’ the admiral said.
“Cyber is the ultimate team sport and AUKUS needs to reflect that.”