CrowdStrike, a private security technology firm, released a report last week condemning Unit 61486 of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for cyber espionage against U.S. corporations.
This report follows the Justice Department’s symbolic indictment of five Chinese military officers for similar cyber misconduct, whose crimes were detailed by Mandiant—another security technology firm—in February 2013. Both PLA cyber units were involved in breaching the networks of U.S. businesses to steal sensitive business information, such as corporate strategy for negotiating with the Chinese and advanced space, satellite, and defense research.
Chinese cyber attacks are part of a comprehensive, overarching national strategy to gain a competitive edge against the West. Heritage’s Steven Bucci cites the Chinese military’s “Doctrine of Information Dominance” in which cyber attacks are “integral to a larger, holistic Chinese strategy serving political, military, intelligence and economic ends.”
The U.S. should not allow the Chinese to continue their cyber campaign at no cost. The Justice Department’s indictment of five Chinese military officers was a step in the right direction, but in the face of such gross intellectual theft and economic espionage by the Chinese, a comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy requires a much stronger response against Chinese cyber aggression.
In addition to “naming and shaming” bad actors in the cyber sphere, the U.S. should withdraw from unproductive dialogue with bad actors like China on issues of cybersecurity and place travel and commercial restrictions on individuals and organizations tied to hacking. Companies dealing in stolen intellectual property should be subject to criminal charges—a threat more powerful than indicting military officials, since businesses often have international assets subject to seizure.
The U.S. should also be willing to weaken or break repressive foreign Internet censorship mechanisms in countries that engage in cyber aggression. Facilitating the bypassing of the “Great Firewall” in China, for example, would be a decisive response in reciprocity to Chinese cyber attacks. Such an act would expose more Chinese citizens to truthful information about the world and their government—a good end in and of itself—and serve as a fitting response to hacking that harms the U.S.’s and other nations’ economies.
Strong American leadership is required to defend the freedom, prosperity, and security of the Internet and the integrity of U.S. economic interests. After all, if the Chinese pay no price for their cyber stealing, why would they stop?
Drew Tucker is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, pleaseclick here.