Non-Military Security

China’s Cyber Threat: Implications for NATO and Potential Remedies

Lucia Kobzová

In recent years, China´s dramatic rise in cyber powers has resulted in a surge in hacking activities targeting its adversaries, with NATO member states finding themselves at the forefront. This paper delves into the strategic motives underpinning Beijing´s pursuit of offensive cyber operations, which aim to secure both military and economic advantage on a global scale while safeguarding the rule of the Chinese Communist Party and national security. On the other hand, the Western world regards these activities as a menace to their national security. Foremost among the victims of Chinese cyber operations is the United States of America, the key member state of NATO. Washington identified Beijing as a major cyber-espionage threat, with an annual theft of intellectual property surpassing 300 billion dollars. Despite diverse diplomatic endeavours to de-escalate cyber tensions, both sides persist in mutual offensive cyber operations. Other member states also encounter relentless attacks from Chinese hackers, with cyber espionage constituting the prevailing technique. Targets include diplomatic entities, foreign ministries, the private sector, and various organisations. Furthermore, extensive data collection on NATO citizens is undertaken through Chinese social media platforms and companies, bolstering Beijing´s intelligence-gathering capabilities against its adversaries. Even though NATO is lagging behind Beijing in terms of technological capacities, in this analysis, it is argued that three possible measures could ameliorate the situation: a new Chinese cyber strategy, substantial investments in technological innovations, and advocacy for a new international cyber treaty.

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