author photo
By SecureWorld News Team
Mon | Jun 3, 2019 | 7:58 AM PDT

Both Russia and China have teams of nation-state trained cyber operatives who are good at what they do.

And according to former government cyber operations leaders we've spoken with, both countries see cyber attacks as a natural extension of how they achieve their objectives.

Recent headlines are proof of this.

Russia hacking examples include the way the Russian military hacked Olympics enemies for revenge, and how Russia used these 20 tricks to hack the Democratic National Committee

And the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly warned of Chinese cyber espionage against the private sector, and filed charges against Chinese citizens accused of IP theft from American companies.

For more perspective, we interviewed Cedric Leighton—SecureWorld keynote speaker, CNN military analyst, and retired U.S. Air Force Colonel—and he explains the motivations behind cyber attacks by Russia versus those by China.

Here are a couple of excerpts from our interview with Col. Leighton:

"If you look at the Russians, they're primarily interested in influence operations. What you saw in the 2016 election is a classic influence operation, but what's really key about this is that in a classic influence operation, you don't have to physically manipulate anything. What you're doing is you are getting into people’s heads," says Leighton.

And it turns out, this was also the point of Russia hacking its Olympics enemies. It wanted information it could use against them in social media campaigns.

China is different. 

"When it comes to China, their main focus is really an economic focus. They're interested in going after intellectual property and how they can make it themselves. They can do things like go in and copy the plans for a fighter jet. The F-22 and F-35 were both copied by the Chinese.

They’re also looking for intellectual property that companies have. They want to know what oil and gas is doing. If an oil and gas company is starting to explore in a certain area of the world and the Chinese national gas company is also interested in that, they will go in and go through computer files of the U.S. company to find out exactly what is happening, what their geologic readings are, what their geological assessments are, and they will use those same assessments to underbid their U.S. competitor."

Expect to hear more examples of Russia's hacking and China's hacking because of the U.S. shift in cyber strategy. In 2018, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced 5 changes to U.S. cyber strategy and issued a warning to digital foes.

[RELATED: Hear Col. Leighton keynote on this topic at SecureWorld Chicago on June 13th.]