High-Tech Spy Games
Have US Revamping Its Strategy
February 11, 2020
advancing technology and an explosion of new adversaries is forcing the
United States to change the way it is fighting back.
The nation's new counterintelligence strategy, unveiled Monday, will no
longer focus on specific enemies, and instead find ways to better defend
the country’s vulnerabilities.
National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) Director William
Evanina described the new strategy as “a paradigm shift,” focused on
“key areas where foreign intelligence entities are hitting us hardest,
and where we need to devote greater attention.”
In another break from the past, the new counterintelligence strategy is
counting on more help both from the private sector and the public.
“With the private sector and democratic institutions increasingly under
attack, this is no longer a problem the U.S. government can address
alone,” Evanina said. “It requires a whole-of-society response involving
the private sector, an informed American public, as well as our allies.”
Report updates 2016 strategy
The new 11-page document updates the previous strategy from 2016, and
unlike its predecessor, names key U.S. foreign intelligence adversaries.
It is a list that includes familiar foes, from countries such as Russia,
China, Iran, Cuba and North Korea, to terror groups such as Lebanese
Hezbollah, Islamic State and al-Qaida.
It also warns of more amorphous, but still significant, threats from
“hacktivists, leaktivists and those with no formal ties to foreign
The release of the new strategy comes the same day U.S. officials
charged four Chinese military officers with one of the largest data
breaches in U.S. history.
Justice Department officials said the Chinese military hackers used a
vulnerability to break into networks belonging to credit reporting giant
Equifax, gaining access to the personal data of nearly half of all
Goal is to undermine U.S.
But the new counterintelligence strategy sees such gambits as just a
start, with actors like China and others increasingly looking to
undermine U.S. critical infrastructure, like the electricity grid, as
well as supply chains that “underpin government and American industry.”
“Their efforts likely are aimed at influencing or coercing U.S.
decision-makers in a time of crisis by holding critical infrastructure
at risk of disruption,” the strategy warns, adding that even weapons
platforms could be put at risk.
Counterintelligence officials are likewise concerned that adversaries
such as China are looking to do more than simply steal intellectual
property, which has cost the U.S. billions of dollars.
Foreign intelligence entities “have embedded themselves into U.S.
national labs, academic institutions and industries,” the new strategy
warns, saying they seek to “influence and exploit U.S. economic and
fiscal policies and trade relationships.”
Another key area of concern is information warfare, where countries such
as Russia, China and Iran have been aiming to undermine confidence in
democratic institutions, sow division in U.S. society and weaken U.S.
Expect attacks to increase
new counterintelligence strategy also warns that as part of these
operations, foreign entities have been working to “influence and deceive
key decision-makers, alter public perceptions and amplify conspiracy
The strategy also cautions that such threats are likely to accelerate,
as access to technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum
computing, nanotechnology and drones will make attacking the U.S.
“Foreign threat actors have become more dangerous because with ready
access to advanced technology, they are threatening a broader range of
targets at lower risk,” the strategy warns.